Older African Americans are more likely to develop serious illness, suffer greater disability, and have increased mortality compared with their Caucasian peers. For example, the age-adjusted rate of hypertension in African Americans is more than 50% greater than the rate of Caucasian Americans and the associated morbidity and mortality is even higher. Despite a growing body of research aimed at identifying the mechanisms that contribute to the racial disparity in the health status of older African Americans, the reason(s) for the decreased health status in the minority population are not fully understood. Recent preliminary results raise the possibility that ageism more specifically, how older persons perceive """"""""older persons""""""""-- contributes to the increased blood pressure and decreased functional status in the elderly in general, and perhaps, also among older African Americans. In older Caucasian men and women, self serotypes of aging affect walking and memory in addition to the cardiovascular response to stress. Moreover, subconscious reinforcement of positive serotypes of aging apparently improves memory and walking performance and reduces the cardiovascular response to stress. These findings suggest that enhancing the stereotype of aging and race and the self-perception of older African Americans may also enhance the performance of activities of daily living and the maintenance of independence in this minority population. Therefore, we propose: 1) To test the hypothesis that older African Americans exposed to an intervention designed to activate a positive imaging of aging will demonstrate a significantly lower cardiovascular response to stress, improved cognitive function and enhance physical performance compared to older African Americans who are exposed to an intervention designed to activate a negative image of aging. 2) To test the hypothesis that reinforcement of positive stereotypes of race and aging will enhance the cardiovascular response to stress, walking performance and cognitive function in older African Americans. The results of this study should pave the way for the development of interventions that extend the short-term benefits of positive reinforcement of the stereotypes of age and race, thereby improving the function and health status of a growing portion of our aging population.
|Levy, Becca R; Ryall, Amy L; Pilver, Corey E et al. (2008) Influence of African American elders'age stereotypes on their cardiovascular response to stress. Anxiety Stress Coping 21:85-93|