Background and Objectives:
From midlife onwards, age stereotypes increasingly underlie social judgments and contribute to age-based discrimination. Whereas many studies compare differences between young and older adults in reports of age discrimination or sensitivity to age stereotypes, few consider age group differences among adults over 50. We form subgroups corresponding to social age group membership (early midlife, late midlife, young old, oldest old) and examine differences in reported experiences of everyday age discrimination and associations with self-perceptions of aging.
Research Design and Method:
Using cross-sectional and longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS: N = 15,071; M Age = 68, range 50–101), multivariate logistic regression was used to examine experiences of everyday discrimination attributed to age, and associations between age discrimination and self-perceptions of aging, in four age groups: early midlife, late midlife, young old, oldest old.
People in the early midlife group (aged 50–59) reported more experiences of unfair treatment than the older age groups but were less likely to attribute their experiences to age discrimination. After controlling for covariates, individuals in all age groups who perceived their own aging positively were less likely to report experiences of age discrimination. The magnitude of this effect, however, was greatest in the early midlife group.
Discussion and Implications:
Findings support proposals that midlife is a pivotal life period when individuals adjust to life events and social role transitions. Future longitudinal studies will provide further insight into whether positive self-perceptions of aging are especially important in this phase of the life course.