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Prior research has shown that exposure to some positive portrayals of aging can affect have positive outcomes consequences in for older adults, such as better performance on memory tests and lower cardiovascular stress. Researchers have suggested that exposure to positive portrayals of aging causes individuals to internalize these positive stereotypes. This internalization of positive stereotypes causes them to behave accordingly, leading to better performance on tests of memory and physical tasks. Recently, however, researchers looked into whether overly positive depictions of aging could have the opposite of the intended effects. These researchers wanted to know if the beneficial effects associated with positive portrayals of aging would remain even when the portrayals were so positive that they were viewed as unrealistic. To do this they conducted experiments that would expose participants of all ages to images of older adults that had been classified as extremely positive, positive, neutral, and negative. The following examples of each category for physical activity were given:. Similar sets of pictures were presented depicting socioemotional situations and intellectual situations. In addition to being presented with these images, participants were asked to rate how realistic an image was, how well they felt they performed compared to what the images depicted, and how positively or negatively they perceived their own aging process. When the participants were asked to rank the realism of each of the photos they were shown, they ranked the extremely positive photos as the most unrealistic.
One area in particular threatens to prevent older adults from making those connections: the digital divide. Mastering digital technology has become a key component of what it means to fully participate in society. If we do not provide technology access and training to older adults, we shut them out from society, worsening an already worrisome trend of isolation and loneliness among the elderly. I visit Tech Allies participants — whose ages range from 62 to 98 — both before and after their eight weeks of one-on-one technology training.