Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Changing Millennials' Attitude toward Older Adults

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Changing Millennials' Attitude toward Older Adults

Article excerpt

The members of the Millennial Generation (born between 1981-1999) are now graduating from college and obtaining their first post-graduate positions. For many Millennials, this will be the first professional interaction they have with mature adults. This study surveyed the attitudes of the Millennial Generation using the Multidimensional Attitudes Toward Older Adults Scale (MATOAS) (Iwasaki, 2006). The objective was to assess younger adult attitudes toward older adults. This study concluded that negative attitudes toward older adults prevailed among younger adults. Techniques for educators and supervisors to increase positive and decrease negative attitudes toward older adults are discussed.

As people live longer due to modern medicine and healthier lifestyles, the population of the United States as a whole is shifting. The 65 and older age group makes up 12.9% of the population and is expected to increase to 20% of the population by 2030 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). Older adults are more productive in their personal and professional lives than past generations and many are remaining in the workplace beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 (James, Swanberg, & McKechnie, 2007; Smith & Clurman, 2007). Stereotypes regarding older adults' usefulness and abilities continue to have more negative connotations than positive ones (Abramson & Silverstein, 2006). As in the past, negative stereotypes of what it means to be "old" still exist among older adults themselves (Levy & Banaji, 2004; Palmore, 1990) as well as among members of the wider population.

This article explores the importance of understanding these stereotypes, with a special focus on Millennials' perceptions of Baby Boomers. The intent was to determine if the Millennials follow the historic trend of holding negative stereotypes of the older generation and to provide insights on how to mitigate this perception.

The Baby Boomers have begun to enter the age 65 and older group. This generation does not expect to retire at 65, they want to have second careers, and they are projected to live longer and be healthier than previous generations (James et al., 2007; Smith & Clurman, 2007). Boomers will remain in the workforce while members of the Millennial Generation enter it (Eisner, 2005; Smith & Clurman, 2007). The Millennial Generation will work with older adults as colleagues and as service providers to other older adults (Eisner, 2005). The Millennials' knowledge of, and previous experiences with, older adults will have an impact on the transition of the Millennials into the workforce (Allan & Johnson, 2009; Eisner, 2005). It is important that the Millennial Generation be prepared to work with and for older adults as the latter cohort continues to grow. By providing knowledge and hands-on experience, educators and supervisors can increase positive attitudes of the Millennial Generation and decrease negative stereotypes and ageism toward Boomers.

PAST EFFORTS TO CHANGE ATTITUDES

Previous attempts have been made to change the negative, age-related attitudes of other generational cohorts; the results have been mixed (Allan & Johnson, 2009; Gellis, Sherman, & Lawrance, 2003; O'Hanlon & Brookover, 2002). Some research suggests that positive change can be obtained through instruction, and other research suggests that the more factual knowledge regarding older adults that a student had, the less negative attitudes the student reported (Allan & Johnson, 2009; O'Hanlon & Brookover, 2002). No significant change in attitude was reported when students were provided with instruction only (Carmel, Cwikel, & Galinsky, 1992; Cottle & Glover, 2007).

METHOD

This study surveyed the attitudes of the Millennial Generation using the Multidimensional Attitudes Toward Older Adults Scale (MATOAS) (Iwasaki, 2006). The Millennial participants were selected via convenience and snowball sampling procedures. …

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