London: People who can no longer shop for themselves, complete housework, or drive their cars are considered 'old', according to a new study.
Activities that define one's independence are the most important markers of age, according to the new research by Oregon State University researcher Michelle Barnhart.
In much of America, a person's independence is closely tied to their ability to drive, shop, and cook for themselves. Because of these unwritten adages, those who are too feeble to carry shopping bags or operate their vehicle are looked at as someone in their twilight years, media reported.
Barnhart conducted in-depth interviews with consumers in their late 80s, as well as their caregivers and family members - often the subject's adult children in their 50s and 60s.
She found that the Baby Boomers, who are ageing themselves, did not wish to be seen as old, but often treated their own parents as 'old people' – not allowing them to exercise independence where they could and assuming they're scatterbrained as well as slow.
Because of this, she wrote that conflicts are ripe to occur between the parents, who don't see themselves as old, and their adult children, who do.
Barnhart noted that those in their 80s and 90s are often dealing with negative connotations of old age.
"Almost every stereotype we associate with being elderly is something negative, from being 'crotchety' and unwilling to change to being forgetful," she said.
Barnhart wrote that part of the problem with 'old age' is that society tends to marginalise those who are advanced in years, rather than valuing them for their wisdom.
"Unless we change the way we view old age, the generation younger than the boomers will treat them the same way as soon as they show a few more wrinkles, or seem a bit shaky on their feet," she said.
The study will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.