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Exploring the relationship between age stereotypes and older adults' physical performance

Farr, Ian (2021) Exploring the relationship between age stereotypes and older adults' physical performance. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.91736) (KAR id:91736)


There is a wealth of research exploring the biological, physical and physiological changes that occur with age to subsequently impact on older adults' physical ability and performance. In contrast, there is much less research exploring psychological determinants of older adults' physical ability and performance, despite some compelling evidence that age stereotypes can have an impact. This thesis explores the potential impact of age stereotypes further taking a mixed methods approach. Using an experimental design, Studies 1 and 2 aimed to replicate and extend age-based stereotype threat (ABST) theory. ABST is the concern that someone has for confirming a negative stereotype of their age-group, when they are required to perform in the stigmatized task domain and evidence suggests it has a detrimental impact on cognitive tasks (Lamont, Swift, & Abrams, 2015), as well physical tasks such as hand-grip (Swift, Lamont, & Abrams, 2012). Study 1 extends Swift et al (2012) by using more precise physical and physiological measures. Study 2 extends ABST understanding by exploring the impact on a new physical performance task measuring balance. These studies find partial support for ABST. Study 3 used existing survey data (ELSA) to test the hypothesis that internalised negative age stereotypes are associated with physical performance outcomes and subsequently puts older adults at increased risk of a fall. Studies 4 and 5 explore the associations between negative age stereotypes and physical performance in applied settings, including a dance group (Study 4) and a care home (Study 5). The studies reveal that physical activity can be an effective intervention for improving older adults' attitudes to age. The findings are discussed in relation to psychological theories, ABST and stereotype embodiment theory, as well as proposing the integration of findings with biological models of age related change. Limitations and future recommendations are also discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Winter, Samantha
Thesis advisor: Swift, Hannah
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.91736
Uncontrolled keywords: ageing psychology biomechanics stereotype
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation. Leisure > Sports sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Sport and Exercise Sciences
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2021 08:54 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2021 07:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Farr, Ian.

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