Do Americans associate old age with telltale physical signs like wrinkles and crow’s feet? Or do they believe that passing a certain age defines a person as ‘over the hill’? According to a new study, neither – a person is defined by how old they act, and how independent they are.
For instance, consumers who can no longer shop for themselves, complete housework, or drive their cars are considered ‘old,’ the study claims.
According to the new study by Oregon State University researcher Michelle Barnhart, activities that define one’s independence are the most important markers of age. In much of America, a person’s independence is closely tied to their ability to drive, shop, and cook for themselves. Because of these unwritten adages, those who are too feeble to carry shopping bags or operate their vehicle are looked at as someone in their twilight years.
To conduct her research, Ms Barnhart conducted in-depth interviews with consumers in their late 80s, as well as their caregivers and family members – often the subject’s adult children in their 50s and 60s.
She found that the Baby Boomers, who are aging themselves, did not wish to be seen as old, but often treated their own parents as ‘old people’ – not allowing them to exercise independence where they could and assuming they’re scatterbrained as well as slow.
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