Changing Perceptions Across Generations

Thursday, 13th December 2018

A recent report published by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) examining attitudes to ageing has found that ageist views are held across the generations in the UK, and that they harm the health and wellbeing of everyone in society as we grow older.

Medau works with EMD UK, the national governing body for group exercise, to promote positive change in the lives of people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, and the findings of this study gave us cause for concern.

The report – entitled ‘That Age Old Question: How Attitudes to Ageing Affect Our Health and Wellbeing’ – reveals that ageism is prevalent in our society, with millennials (those aged between 18 and 34) holding the most negative attitudes to ageing of all age groups.

Almost a third (30%) of the public believe that “being lonely is just something that happens when people get old”, while a quarter of 18-34-year-olds believe it is “normal” for older people to be unhappy and depressed. Two in five (40%) 18-24-year-olds believe there is no way to escape dementia as you age, while nearly one in four (24%) millennials think “older people can never really be thought of as attractive.”

Real-Life Consequences to Ageist Attitudes

RSPH’s research identified a wide range of ageist attitudes, but noted that survey respondents viewed getting older most negatively of all when thinking about three things in particular:

  1. Participation in activities
  2. Memory loss
  3. Appearance

Ageist attitudes harm older people as they lead to discrimination, which can promote social exclusion, affect employment opportunities, and have a huge impact on both physical and mental health.

A big concern is that as people grow older, many start to apply negative age stereotypes to themselves. As this happens, they begin to believe that they really are too old to participate in activities, become withdrawn and inactive, and soon start to suffer physical and mental health problems as a result. The RSPH study notes that previous research has shown that those with a more negative attitude to ageing live on average 7.5 years less than those with more positive attitudes.

In light of the findings, RSPH is calling for action to end the stigmatisation of older people. It wants to undo the damage caused by media clichés and ongoing advertising campaigns (such as those which use the term “anti-ageing” to promote beauty products, for example) that keep the culture of ageism live and kicking, and calls on stakeholders in the media, government, schools, and the voluntary sector to reframe the way our nation views ageing and cast it in a more positive light.

Over 55s Make Up One Third of All Group Exercise Participants

The great thing about group exercise is that it isn’t just a young person’s game, and the communal atmosphere of group exercise classes make it an activity that’s not only good for physical health, but mental health, too.

Despite the negative attitudes, RSPH’s survey respondents held about older people “participating in activities”, EMD UK’s research finds that group exercise participation is nearly as strong amongst the over 55s as it is amongst the 35-54 age group, and in fact stronger than the 22-34 age group.

In all, EMD UK found that 32.7% of group exercise participants were 55 or over, compared to 34.5% who were between the ages of 35 and 54, and 31.1% between 22 and 34 – in other words, there is roughly equal participation across all age groups.

What this tells us is that it really is ageism that’s the problem, and not the actual ages of activity participants themselves – at least when it comes to group exercise.

The older generation is vital to the health and prosperity of our sector, and we welcome group exercise participants of all ages and abilities with open arms.

The Medau Society

With a strong focus on the over-60s, Medau is participant-centred and always delivered in a non-competitive atmosphere. The classes are each personally designed by a qualified Medau teacher, and tailored to the needs of participants. Medau exercises are based on natural body movements, build core strength and stamina, improve balance and coordination, and do not lead to over-strain or exhaustion.

In partnership with EMD UK, the Medau Society organises Teacher Training and In-service Training for qualified Medau teachers, as well as recreational courses and events for participants.

Medau brings movement, exercise, fun, joy and laughter to people of all ages. They’re always on the lookout for group exercise instructors who want to further their careers by becoming a Medau Member and help the Society bring more Medau classes to more people across the nation.

Find out more about becoming a Medau Member here.