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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Certified Gerontologist

Myth: Seniors are Warm-Hearted but Impaired

April 24, 2019

In the early 2000’s, two researchers at Princeton University queried college students about their opinions of and their ideas about seniors. Sadly, the students consistently grouped the seniors in the same category with disabled and developmentally disabled people, reflecting the widely held prejudice that older adults are low on competence. The students did throw us cognitive-impaired mid-lifers a small bone by rating us high on warmth. Yippee ;-( However, if the students did rate us as being competent, our warmth and likeability factors went through the floor. It seems we can’t be warm and competent at the same time—kind of like being blonde and smart in the same body. On the positive side, there was some wiggle room in how warm and friendly we could be, but the belief that older adults are incompetent was as solid as Mt. Rushmore. Should you think things have changed in the ensuing decade, I am sorry to say, you would be mistaken. In an update to their study published in 2016, Cuddy and Fiske, the researchers, stood by their original findings, and other studies continue to corroborate the first findings of Cuddy and Fiske. Amazing.

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