Older Persons’ Experiences of Ageism: A Qualitative Descriptive Study


  • Anndrea Vogt
  • Sherry Dahlke


Objective: The aim of this study was to understand how ageism impacts the self-perceptions of older persons. Methods: A qualitative descriptive study was conducted interviewing nine older persons to understand their experiences of ageism, using a semi-structured interview. Data were analyzed using content and thematic analysis. Findings: Three themes were developed from the data analysis: ‘Experiences of Ageism,’ ‘Resilience,’ and ‘Looking Forward.’ Participants discussed their personal experiences with ageism and those they witnessed other people experiencing. Despite negative experiences with ageism, participants had developed strategies to move forward in life that displayed resilience. They also had advice for how our society could strategize in diminishing ageism. Discussion: Ageism is insidious and subtly prevalent. In trying to explain why participants initially had trouble recalling instances of ageism we looked at two theories. Stereotype embodiment theory asserts that ageism is internalized. Social Emotional Selectivity theory suggests that as we age, we focus more on positive rather than negative experiences. Regardless of the cause of the subtlety of ageism, more awareness and education about ageism and ageing is needed. Conclusions: Understanding how ageism impacts older persons will provide insights into how we can create better interventions and resources to support this vulnerable population. Additional research is needed to more fully understand older people's experiences of ageism. Implications for practice: Nurses could foster awareness of ageism in their work with older persons and advocate for policies that diminish ageism in healthcare institutions.