The next critical turn for ageism research: The intersections of ageism and ableism

Gerontologist. 2023 Jun 2;gnad062. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnad062. Online ahead of print.


Background and objectives: Aging includes multidimensional and multidirectional changes in biology, psychology and social roles. With aging, individuals experience physiological changes that impact ability, stamina, and reserve capacity. Given the natural occurrence of physical decline accompanying aging, it is essential to understand if fear and prejudice toward disability (ableism) intersect and influence fear and anxiety about aging (ageism).

Research design and research design and methods: A cross-sectional survey study was conducted using ResearchMatch for study recruitment, 913 individuals responded to questions regarding three types of ageism, including affinity for older people, internalized ageism, and relational ageism, as well as internalized and relational ableism.

Results: Internalized ageism was significantly associated with relational ageism, fear of physical disability, fear of cognitive disability, and affinity for older people. Relational ageism was associated with internalized ageism, relational ableism, fear of physical disability, fear of sensory disability, fear of cognitive disability and affinity for older people.

Discussion and implications: Examining the intersection of ageism and ableism represents the next pivotal juncture to developing effective anti-ageism interventions that address the root anxieties influencing negative attitudes about aging and fears of growing older. Public policy initiatives to address community-level interventions and targeted training to inform discourse that addresses the intersection between ageism and ableism are critical to addressing these issues and promoting age and ability inclusivity.

Keywords: Aging Anxiety; Attitudes & Perceptions toward Aging; Disabilities; Intersectionality.