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Study Compares Traditional, Modern Views of Aging

(Cornell University) Traditional societies may see the aging process in a more positive light than modern societies, according to a Cornell researcher in a recent study…
The researchers found that Tsimané Amazonian forager-farmers viewed old people as having better memories than young people, while people in Poland and the United States viewed the young as having better memories. They found that across the different societies there was consensus that older people are more respected and perceived as wiser than younger people, and that in general, participants perceived aging as more detrimental to women than men, [researcher Corinna] Löckenhoff said. But Tsimané participants differed from their industrial counterparts in perceptions of memory. While the participants from industrialized nations held negative beliefs of aging and memory, the Tsimané people felt the elderly had better memories.
"There are reasons to think that traditional societies would have more positive beliefs about aging and memory," Löckenhoff said. Modern societies no longer rely on oral traditions where older people serve as repositories of culture and knowledge, she said, whereas traditional societies still value experience-based knowledge. The findings are important for traditional societies to ensure their attitudes toward older adults do not suffer as they increasingly modernize, Löckenhoff said. And for modern societies, the findings shed light on how culture and context can have an influence on the way that aging is seen and that in turn can affect how people age, she said.
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