Announcement of research agenda “Perceiving old age”

Research agenda "Perceiving old age"

In the in-house colloquium of the Institute for Gerontology, University of Vechta, I announced what my research agenda on the topic of perception of old age is. The goal of this research agenda is to examine how older people are perceived across cultures, which, I expect, has consequences for how younger people behave towards this age group. These have been addressed in the literature, however a program that seeks to identify and integrate the links between individual, societal and life-transition factors is still missing.

My approach is three-fold:
1. Investigate person-centered factors that motivate and guide the perception of old age. Under this umbrella-term, I seek to examine factors such as personal value preferences and worries, as well as threat perception and personality attributes. My expectation is that there other relevant person-centered factors that in the current literature are under-researched (for example values and worries) but can provide additional explanation to why and how people perceive old age.
2. Consider society-related factors that shape and form the identity, personality and other psychological traits of individuals in order to further understand the reasons for a rather ageist image of older people. Under this overall term, I expect that cultural characteristics, such as culture-relevant value preferences and cultural particularities like individualism or long-term orientation, and traits of the society itself, such as breadth of macro worries, will add to the holistic explanation of ageism.
3. Examine varying life-transition scenarios and in which way and degree is the perception of older people modified by them. This line of studies is limited to three main scenarios, namely, migration, the aging process itself, and inter-generational interactions. My expectation is that changes, the core process of these life-transition scenarios, will either reinforce or weaken any existing negative images of older people. The more intriguing question is however, what elements exactly in these three scenarios are responsible for such adjustments/adaptation in perception of old age.

To further develop and bring into fruition these research topics, I have reached out to colleagues who are experts in their field.
The current collaborations are:
1. With Jorge Vala (ICS, Lisbon), for a project on the role of threat in the perception of older people. The goal is to take a dual-culture approach (Germany and Portugal) in identifying experimentally the effects of threat perception on varying behavioral measurements related to old age discrimination.
2. With Melanie Vauclair (ISCTE, Lisbon) and Maksim Rudnev (ISCTE, Lisbon & HSE, Russia), for a project on the implications of culture-level value typologies on explaining why seemingly there is discrepancy in the stereotypes of older people that individuals subjectively hold and their culture-relevant stereotypes of older people.

Independently, I am working on two additional projects:
1. ‘Horizontal transmission of stereotypes of older people from native population to immigrants’, a project that seeks to answer the research question whether immigrants can incorporate the stereotype-information concerning older people that they learn in their host cultures into their existing beliefs. The manuscript has been submitted.
2. ‘(Dis)Agreeing with my country’s stereotypes of older people’, a project that seeks to understand whether personal value preferences and worries can provide explanation to the seeming discrepancy between what people subjectively believe and what the prevailing cultural beliefs of older people are in their cultures and subsequently whether there are cross-cultural differences in this discrepancy. A manuscript is in preparation.