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Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1995;40(3):187-207.

Typical and optimal aging in women and men: is there a double standard?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523, USA.


Gender stereotypes of typical and optimal, mentally healthy aging were examined with sixty-year-old and seventy-five-year-old women, men and gender-unspecified older people as target persons. Respondents were young adult individuals (N = 232) and their older adult relatives/acquaintances (N = 233). Perceptions of typical aging varied depending on the age of the respondent, the target gender and the target age. Gender stereotypes were more pronounced than age stereotypes: respondents described same-gender targets more similarly than same-age targets. Older women were rated higher on dimensions related to nurturance while older men were rated higher on intellectual competence and autonomy. Perceptions of optimal aging were not found to be affected by the gender of the respondent or target. Views of optimal aging, however, were influenced by respondent and target age. These findings suggest a double standard of aging for typical but not for optimal aging.

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