If you’re the kind of person who loves nothing more than spending time with your grandchildren, you could actually be helping society’s view on older people.
A new report out of Belgium has discovered that ageist attitudes could be curbed in children as young as three.
They discovered that children who regularly spend quality time with their grandparents were less likely to become ageist, prejudice or discriminative against older people.
The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Liège in Belgium, asked 1,151 children aged between seven and 16 about their thoughts towards older people and their own relationship with their grandparents. The results found that kids who had a better connection with their grandmas and grandpas were more accepting of other elderly people.
“The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was poor quality of contact with grandparents,” Allison Flamion, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Liège and head researcher of the study said.
“We asked children to describe how they felt about seeing their grandparents. Those who felt unhappy were designated as having poor quality of contact.
“When it came to ageist view, we found that quality of contact mattered much more than frequency.”
The study found that girls tended to have a more favourable view on older members of society than boys and that they were more comfortable about getting older.
Children aged between seven and nine proved to express the most prejudice, while kids between 10 and 12 expressed the least.
The research also found that children with grandparents who are in good health are more likely to show favourable feelings towards the older generation.
Stéphane Adam, professor of psychology at the University of Liège, who co-authored the study, added that grandparents played an important role in how younger people treated older people throughout their lives.
“For many children, grandparents are their first and most frequent contact with older adults,” she said.
“Our findings point to the potential of grandparents to be part of intergenerational programs designed to prevent ageism.
“Next, we hope to explore what makes contacts with grandparents more rewarding for their grandchildren as well as the effects on children of living with or caring for their grandparents.”