It’s a fact of life that everyone ages—and we all want to live to see old age. But, sadly, advanced age often earns people judgment rather than respect: Younger people pay less attention to what you have to say or joke about how you’re too old “to get popular culture.”
Ageism doesn’t benefit anyone but new research shows it may be preventable if we foster positive relationships between our kids and their grandparents.
A new study published in the journal Child Development found that children who have good relationships with their grandmas and grandpas are less likely to show bias towards older adults.
For the study, researchers asked 1,151 Belgium kids aged 7 to 16 to describe how they felt about their grandparents. They discovered discovered those who were unhappy with the relationship were more inclined to have generally ageist views.
“The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was poor quality of contact with grandparents," says lead researcher Allison Flamion, a psychology graduate student at the University of Liege, in a press release. “When it came to ageist views, we found that quality of contact mattered much more than frequency.”
In other words: Your parents can help shape the way your kids view aging.
This doesn’t just happen through the quality of their relationships, but also because of children’s perceptions of the grandparents themselves. Specifically, according to the researchers, children who had grandparents in poor health were more likely to be prejudiced against older adults than those with healthy grandparents. Interestingly, kids aged 10 to 12 years old, were least likely among the participants to have ageist attitudes, the study found.
Studies show that ageism is particularly prevalent in the workplace. According to AARP, two-thirds of older workers have reported being witness to or the victim of age bias on the job—even though it’s illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
That could have a detrimental impact on their economic security: Research has found older workers remain unemployed for longer, which makes it difficult to save for retirement or retire at all.
Ageism also has a discernible impact on health. According to the World Health Organization, older people who have ageist views may have shorter lifespans than those who view age positively. The global agency also cites ageism as a cause for cardiovascular stress, decreased productivity and lower self-efficacy.
As parents, we want our children to have healthy, positive attitudes towards aging and older adults. The new research suggests that shaping those views begins with their grandparents.