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Assessing attitudes toward the elderly: Polizzi's refined version of the aging semantic differential

by Kenneth G. Polizzi
Educational Gerontology ()
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While the number of elderly men and women continues to grow, an accurate assessment of attitudes toward the elderly remains difficult. Many problems exist that contribute to this difficulty of assessment. The first problem is the age of the Aging Semantic Differential, an instrument often used for the assessment of attitudes toward the elderly. The adjectives employed are not necessarily descriptive of attitudes today. Another problem was the failure to employ women as attitudinal objects as well as men in the original instrument. Therefore, the Aging Semantic Differential is perhaps outdated for such assessments of attitudes toward today's elderly population. The purpose of this study was to refine the Aging Semantic Differential for the purpose of more accurately assessing current attitudes toward older people in general by generating a more up-to-date list of adjectives. Possible differences in attitude toward men and women were assessed in order to establish a refined list of adjectives for use on the generalized elderly population. Three hundred undergraduate students (136 men, 164 women) evaluated men and women 70-85 years of age. The results of the factor analyses revealed strong similarities in item composition on four factors of the factor structures for old men and old women; however, the orders of the loadings were different on each of the four factors. The final list of adjectives has Cronbach alphas of .9737 and .9713, and test-retest reliabilities of .8127 and .7938 for the old men and the old women, respectively. Recommendations are made on the use of the updated list of adjectives, as well as for methodological and conceptual considerations for future research. Also, future research is called for to determine attitudes toward the elderly rather than to debate the number of factors necessary to explain the attitude concept, as has been done in a majority of studies concerning attitudes toward the elderly. Copyright © 2003 Brunner-Routledge.

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