Community size and perception of older adults in the Cook Islands

PLOS ONE, Jul 2019

Attitudes towards aging are often negative, a phenomenon known as ageism. However, personal contact with older adults and intergenerational exchange in the context of close families may mitigate such negative tendencies. So far, these effects have been studied in Western and industrialized contexts. The present study extended this work to the Cook Islands archipelago, a group of islands in the South Pacific characterized by low levels of industrialization and relative isolation from foreign influences. We tested the hypothesis that attitudes toward aging in the Cook Islands would be more positive than in the world at large, and that, within the archipelago, attitudes towards aging would be more positive in smaller, less industrialized communities with closer family ties. Participants (n = 70), were recruited from three islands varying in community size and strength of the family ties among inhabitants. They rated their aging attitudes on four dimensions. Contrary to our hypotheses, attitudes in the Cook Islands did not differ from those reported in industrialized nations and did not vary significantly across islands, even after controlling for personal contact to older adults. Potential limitations and implications for future research are discussed.

A PDF file should load here. If you do not see its contents the file may be temporarily unavailable at the journal website or you do not have a PDF plug-in installed and enabled in your browser.

Alternatively, you can download the file locally and open with any standalone PDF reader:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0219760&type=printable

Community size and perception of older adults in the Cook Islands

July Community size and perception of older adults in the Cook Islands Tomasz FrackowiakID 0 1 Anna Oleszkiewicz 0 1 Corinna E. L o?ckenhoff 1 Agnieszka Sorokowska 0 1 Piotr Sorokowski 0 1 0 Institute of Psychology, University of Wroclaw, Wroclaw, Poland, 2 Interdisciplinary Center ?Smell & Taste?, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, TU Dresden , Dresden, Germany , 3 Department of Human Development, Cornell University , Ithaca, NY , United States of America, 4 Department of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine, TU Dresden , Dresden , Germany 1 Editor: Giovanni Ottoboni, University of Bologna , ITALY Attitudes towards aging are often negative, a phenomenon known as ageism. However, personal contact with older adults and intergenerational exchange in the context of close families may mitigate such negative tendencies. So far, these effects have been studied in Western and industrialized contexts. The present study extended this work to the Cook Islands archipelago, a group of islands in the South Pacific characterized by low levels of industrialization and relative isolation from foreign influences. We tested the hypothesis that attitudes toward aging in the Cook Islands would be more positive than in the world at large, and that, within the archipelago, attitudes towards aging would be more positive in smaller, less industrialized communities with closer family ties. Participants (n = 70), were recruited from three islands varying in community size and strength of the family ties among inhabitants. They rated their aging attitudes on four dimensions. Contrary to our hypotheses, attitudes in the Cook Islands did not differ from those reported in industrialized nations and did not vary significantly across islands, even after controlling for personal contact to older adults. Potential limitations and implications for future research are discussed. Introduction Human population aging was first recognized as a serious demographic challenge over sixty years ago [ 1, 2 ], but it was primarily discussed as a problem of industrialized countries. In recent years, developing countries are beginning to face this challenge as well [3] necessitating a better understanding of the factors that govern the perception and treatment of older adults across the world [ 4?6 ]. Of particular interest are the role of community characteristics and family ties that may in turn affect access to potential caregivers [ 7, 8 ]. Unfortunately, interactions with older adults may be negatively affected by ageism [ 9, 10 ], a tendency to perceive and treat individuals more negatively because of their age [ 10, 11 ]. Like other stereotypes, ageism can be mitigated by enhanced personal contact with subjects of prejudice, a phenomenon known as the contact hypothesis [ 12 ]. Personal contact with old people decreases negative attitudes [ 13 ] through more realistic perceptions and reduced anxiety [ 14? 16 ]. This effect is especially visible in children interacting with older people [ 8, 13 ]. study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. While the contact hypothesis operates at the individual level, societal factors may influence attitudes towards aging as well. Specifically, modernization theory [ 17, 18 ] has argued that increasing industrialization decreases the societal status of older people because it disrupts traditional extended families and decreases the value of older adults? experience-based knowledge. In support of this idea, it has been shown that in traditional societies, perception of elderly people are more positive due to the respect and honor given to seniors [ 19?22 ]. Beyond modernization, perception of elderly people in less industrialized societies may also be linked to community size. Members of small communities usually know each other, and?according to the contact hypothesis?this personal contact may mitigate negative age stereotypes. So far, such effects have mostly been studied in Western and industrialized contexts (for a meta-analysis see North, Fiske [ 23 ]) with only a few studies comparing traditional and industrialized societies (e.g., [ 22 ]). The present study extends this work to the Cook Islands archipelago, a group of islands in the South Pacific characterized by low levels of industrialization and relative isolation from foreign markets [ 24, 25 ]. We gathered data from three islands varying in community size, contact to the outside world, and exposure to mainstream media. We performed both cross-cultural comparisons, testing the hypothesis that attitudes toward aging in the Cook Islands would be more positive than in industrialized countries around the world and within-culture comparisons, testing the hypothesis that?within the archipelago?attitudes towards aging would be more positive in smaller, less industrialized communities characterized by closer family ties, greater personal acquaintance with older adults, and lower exposure to mainstream media. Following prior research (e.g., [ 23, 26 ]) the latter analyses also controlled for contact to older adults. Materials and methods Participants Participants consisted of 70 inhabitants of three islands of the Cook Islands archipelago: Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and Palmerston (for participant characteristics, see Table 1). Rarotonga, with 13,000 inhabitants, is the biggest island of the Cook Islands where Avarua, the capital, is located. It is the major tourist destination within the archipelago and home of pDiff = p-value testing for significant differences across islands, BF01 = Bayes Factor in support of the null Hypothesis; standard deviations for continuous measures are shown in parentheses 2 / 6 the international airport as well as numerous hotels and other infrastructure [ 25 ]. The study was conducted in Avarua at the Sunday market. North from Rarotonga lies Aitutaki, an island with a population of approximately 2,000 people. Aitutaki is the second most populated island of the Cook Islands. The study was conducted in the main village of Aitutaki?Arutanga. Finally, Palmerston is a tiny atoll located 500 km north-west from Rarotonga and is inhabited by approximately 60 people who rarely have contact with tourists or other inhabitants of the Cook Islands archipelago, thus it meets the requirement of a small, isolated community. The present inhabitants of Palmerston comprise three families of the same surname: Masters. There are few scientific works documenting the history of Palmerston, but some additional information can be found in Pryor [ 27 ] and Hendery [ 28 ]. Table 1 shows demographic characteristics for each sample. All data are available at https:// figshare.com/articles/cook_islands_PLOS_xlsx/8256503. As seen in the last column of the table, the samples from the different islands had similar gender and age distributions. However, the number of older acquaintances varied across islands such that people living in smaller communities reported knowing fewer older adults. Procedure The study was approved by Cooks Islands National Research Committee, the ethical board of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Wroclaw, and Cornell University Institutional Review Board. Data was collected during individual meetings (after obtaining informed consent from the respondents) conducted by the researchers in English (official language at the Cook Islands, commonly known by the inhabitants). Questions were adapted from Sorokowski et al. [ 22 ] and Lo?ckenhoff et al. [ 26 ] and assessed aging attitudes with regard to life satisfaction, performance of daily tasks, family authority, and wisdom. For each of these characteristics, participants were asked to indicate whether life satisfaction, performance of daily tasks, family authority and wisdom increased (coded as 1 for the purpose of further statistical analyses), remained stable (coded as 0) or decreased (coded as -1) in older adults. Lower scores indicate perceptions of age-related decrements in functioning or status and thus more negative aging attitude. Participants also reported how many older people they knew personally and researchers recorded the respondents? age and gender. Results Initial analyses examined the general direction of aging attitudes in our sample. We performed a repeated-measures general linear model (GLM) with four aspects of aging included as a within subject factors (life satisfaction vs performance of daily tasks vs family authority vs wisdom). We found that aging attitudes differed across characteristics, F(3, 207) = 13.77, p < .001, partial eta-squared = .17. Within-subjects contrasts indicated that, consistent with the prior literature [ 26 ], Cook islanders reported more negative attitudes for age-related changes in daily tasks and life satisfaction than for changes in family authority and wisdom (all ps < .001). Given the low sample size, we conducted an analogous, additional Bayesian analysis which confirmed that the alternative hypothesis (i.e., there are differences between four aspects of aging attitudes) is far more likely than the null hypothesis, BF10 = 2.498 106. Negative attitudes for age-related changes in life satisfaction were far more likely to be observed as compared to authority (BF10 = 70.9) and wisdom (BF10 = 753.8). Further, negative attitudes for age-related changes in performance were more likely to be observed as compared to changes in authority (BF10 = 171.9) and wisdom (BF10 = 12513.2). For the purpose of cross-cultural comparisons, the aging attitude scores for the combined Cook Island sample were compared to the average scores derived from 26 industrialized 3 / 6 cultures across the world ([ 26 ]; for this comparison, the original 5-point scores were transformed to a 3-point scale). One-sample t-Tests (Bonferroni corrected) indicated that Cook Islanders did not differ in aging attitudes relative to industrialized societies for daily tasks (-0.38 in Lo?ckenhoff et al. [ 26 ] vs. -0.24 in the present sample; t(69) = 1.46, p = .15), life satisfaction (-0.03 vs. -0.16; t(69) = 1.29, p = .2), family authority (0.21 vs. 0.33; t(69) = -1.31, p = .19), and wisdom (0.52 vs. 0.41; t(69) = 1.41, p = .16). The aforementioned statistics indicate a lack of discrepancies between previously published cross-cultural data and currently presented evidence from the Cook Islands. For within-culture comparisons, we computed further GLMs with island as the independent variable, and the aging attitude scores for each of the four aspects of aging as dependent variables. Again, all comparisons between the islands were further verified with the use of Bayesian analyses. As seen in Table 1, there was a trend indicating that attitudes about life satisfaction in Palmerston were more positive than in the two other communities, F(2, 70) = 2.82, partial eta-squared = .08, p = .07 (BF01 = 1.04; inconclusive result). However, this trend was no longer visible after controlling for differences in the number of older acquaintances across islands, F(2, 70) = 1.85, partial eta-squared = .05, p = .17 (BF01 = 1.64; inconclusive result). Older people were perceived similarly across the three Islands with respect to authority, wisdom and daily task (all ps > .38; all BF01 >3.77; a lack of difference was at least 3.77 more likely than differences between islands). Discussion The present study adds to the literature by providing a better understanding of aging attitudes in the Cook Islands, a low-industrialized and relatively isolated society. To the best of our knowledge, the present data are the first to provide quantitative data on views of aging within this community. In general, aging attitudes in the Cook Island archipelago were very similar to those observed in more industrialized societies across the world. Consistent with prior findings [ 26 ], Cook Islanders had more negative aging attitudes about changes in everyday tasks and life satisfaction than about changes in family authority and wisdom. Further, the numerical scores for each aspect of age-related change that we observed in the Cook Islands did not differ significantly from those observed in 26 industrialized countries [ 26 ]. Thus, the present data add to existing evidence suggesting that some aspects of aging attitudes are fairly universal. Data did not support our prediction that aging attitudes would be more positive within this developing and fairly isolated community. We also examined variations in aging attitudes across islands. Only one of the characteristics?life satisfaction?showed a trend in the predicted direction such that residents from the small and isolated Palmerston tended to have more positive views of life-satisfaction in later life than inhabitants of the two larger islands. However, after controlling for variations in contact to older adults, this trend was no longer visible. Although the present data allow a first glimpse of aging attitudes in the Cook Islands, further research is needed to address a variety of limitations and open questions. First, it needs to be noted that the assumptions of the current study which required our hypotheses to be tested in a small, isolated community made it very difficult to recruit large groups of participants. Our exploratory study employed a relatively modest sample, and future studies, especially those focused on complex hypotheses, should recruit larger sample sizes from a wider range of islands within the archipelago. This would allow researchers to systematically disentangle the effects of community size, contact with older adults, and relative geographic isolation. In particular, the contact hypothesis [ 12 ] which proposes that personal acquaintance with older adults is associated with more positive aging attitudes would require a more refined assessment within the 4 / 6 Cook Island setting. Inhabitants of the Cook Islands are closely related, especially in Palmerston, where all islanders have common ancestors [ 27 ]. Members of such close-knit communities may know a smaller number of older adults, but the contacts with the elders they know are more likely to be intense and personal resulting, in an in-group positive bias [ 29, 30 ]. Thus future studies should not only assess how many older adults are known, but also capture the frequency and emotional valence of such contacts. Further research is also needed to explore the potential role of media exposure and track the type of media (e.g., Internet, TV, newsprint) and the frequency with which they are consumed to explore their relative influence on aging attitudes. Finally, future studies should expand the aspects of aging attitudes that are being considered and employ a range of assessment approaches. To allow for comparisons with prior work [ 22, 26 ] the present study focused on aging expectations for a limited set of relevant domains. Future work should extend this scope to include emotional responses as well as behavioral intentions towards the elderly and supplement quantitative approaches with qualitative accounts. Author Contributions Conceptualization: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Data curation: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Agnieszka Formal analysis: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Agnieszka Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. kowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Investigation: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Agnieszka Methodology: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Agnieszka Project administration: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Resources: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, Agnieszka SoroWriting ? original draft: Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Lo?ckenhoff, 1. Havens BJ . An Investigation of Activity Patterns and Adjustment in an Aging Population . Gerontologist . 1968 ; 8 : 201 - 206 . https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/8.3_part_ 1 .201 PMID: 5683207 2. Tibbitts C. The Impact Of Aging On Social Institutions . J Gerontol . 1958 ; 13 : 48 - 52 . http://doi.org/10. 1093/geronj/13.Suppl_ 2 . 48 3. Giacalone D , Wendin K , Kremer S , Fr?st MB , Bredie WLP , Olsson V , et al. Health and quality of life in an aging population-Food and beyond . Food Qual Prefer . 2016 ; 47 : 166 - 170 . http://doi.org/10.1016/j. foodqual. 2014 . 12 .002 4. Barnes S. The design of caring environments and the quality of life of older people . Ageing Soc . 2002 ; 22 ( 6 ): 775 - 789 . http://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X02008899 5. Karel MJ , Gatz M , Smyer MA . Aging and mental health in the decade ahead: What psychologists need to know . Am Psychol . 2012 ; 67 ( 3 ): 184 - 198 . https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025393 PMID: 21942364 6. Livingston G , Johnston K , Katona C , Paton J , Lyketsos CG . Systematic review of psychological approaches to the management of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia . Am J Psychiatry . 2005 ; 162 ( 11 ): 1996 - 2021 . https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp. 162 .11. 1996 PMID: 16263837 7. Okoye UO . Young Children's Perception of the Elderly. A Comparison of Data from the United States and Southeastern Nigeria . J Intergener Relatsh . 2005 ; 3 ( 3 ): 6 - 24 . http://doi.org/10.1300/J194v03n03_ 02 8. Postigo JML , Honrubia RL . The Co-residence of Elderly People with Their Children and Grandchildren . Educ Gerontol . 2010 ; 36 ( 4 ): 330 - 349 . http://doi.org/10.1080/03601270903212351 9. Barrow G , Smith P. Aging , Ageism, and Society . St. Paul: West Publishing Company; 1979 . 10. Nelson TD . Ageism: Prejudice Against Our Feared Future Self . J Soc Issues . 2005 ; 61 ( 2 ): 207 - 221 . http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540- 4560 . 2005 . 00402 .x 11. Perdue CW , Gurtman MB . Evidence for the automaticity of ageism . J Exp Soc Psychol . 1990 ; 26 ( 3 ): 199 - 216 . http://doi.org/10.1016/ 0022 - 1031 ( 90 ) 90035 - K 12. Cuddy AJC , Norton MI , Fiske ST . This Old Stereotype: The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Elderly Stereotype . J Soc Issues . 2005 ; 61 ( 2 ): 267 - 285 . http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540- 4560 . 2005 . 00405 .x 13. Blunk EM , Williams SW . The effects of curriculum on preschool children's perceptions of the elderly . Educ Gerontol . 1997 ; 23 ( 3 ): 233 - 341 . http://doi.org/10.1080/0360127970230303 14. Allan LJ , Johnson JA . Undergraduate Attitudes Toward the Elderly: The Role of Knowledge, Contact and Aging Anxiety . Educ Gerontol . 2008 ; 35 ( 1 ): 1 - 14 . http://doi.org/10.1080/03601270802299780 15. Harwood J , Hewstone M , Paolini S , Voci A . Grandparent-Grandchild Contact and Attitudes Toward Older Adults: Moderator and Mediator Effects . Pers Soc Psychol Bull . 2005 ; 31 ( 3 ): 393 - 406 . https:// doi.org/10.1177/0146167204271577 PMID: 15657454 16. Tam T , Hewstone M , Harwood J , Voci A , Kenworthy J. Intergroup Contact and Grandparent-Grandchild Communication : The Effects of Self-Disclosure on Implicit and Explicit Biases Against Older People . Group Process Intergroup Relat. 2006 ; 9 ( 3 ): 413 - 429 . http://doi.org/10.1177/1368430206064642 17. Cowgill DO , Holmes LD . Aging and modernization . New York: Appleton-Centaury-Crofts; 1972 . 18. Nyangweso MA . Transformations of care of the aged among Africans-a study of the Kenyan situation . Aging Ment Health . 1998 ; 2 ( 3 ): 181 - 185 . http://doi.org/10.1080/13607869856650 19. Branco K , Williamson J . Stereotyping and the life cycle: Views of aging and the aged . In: Miller A, editor. In the eye of the beholder: Contemporary issues in stereotyping . New York: Praeger; 1982 . pp. 364 - 410 . 20. Eyetsemitan FE . Suggestons regarding cross-cultural envirnment as context for aging and human development in non-western cultures . Psychol Rep . 2002 ; 90 ( 3 ): 823 - 833 . http://doi.org/10.2466/pr0. 2002 . 90 .3. 823 21. Palmore E , Maeda D. The honorable elders revisited . Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1985 . 22. Sorokowski P , Sorokowska A , Frackowiak T , Lo?ckenhoff CE. Aging Perceptions in Tsimane' Amazonian Forager-Farmers Compared With Two Industrialized Societies . Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci . 2017 ; 72 ( 4 ): 561 - 570 . https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbv080 23. North MS , Fiske ST . Modern attitudes toward older adults in the aging world: A cross-cultural metaanalysis . Psychol Bull . 2015 ; 141 ( 5 ): 993 - 1021 . https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039469 PMID: 26191955 24. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Government Document . 22 June 2018. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cw. html Cited 12 December 2018 . 25. Government of The Cook Islands . Census 2016. Government Document. 10 December 2016 . Available from: http://www.mfem.gov.ck/statistics/census-and-surveys/census/142-census-2016 Cited 12 December 2018 . 26. Lo?ckenhoff CE, De Fruyt F , Terracciano A , McCrae RR , De Bolle M , Costa P , et al. Perceptions of aging across 26 cultures and their culture-level associates . Psychol Aging . 2009 ; 24 ( 4 ): 941 - 954 . https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016901 PMID: 20025408 27. Pryor P. Palmerston Atoll : A tale of survival over 117 years by one family . Hawaii J Hist . 1980 ; 14 : 141 - 157 . 28. Hendery R. Early Documents from Palmerston Island and their Implications for the Origins of Palmerston English . J Pac Hist . 2013 ; 48 ( 3 ): 309 - 322 . http://doi.org/10.1080/00223344. 2013 .808727 29. Brewer MB . In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive-motivational analysis . Psychol Bull . 1979 ; 86 ( 2 ): 307 - 324 . http://doi.org/10.1037/ 0033 - 2909 . 86 .2. 307 30. Ellemers N , van Rijswijk W , Roefs M , Simons C. Bias in Intergroup Perceptions: Balancing Group Identity with Social Reality . Pers Soc Psychol Bull . 1997 ; 23 ( 2 ): 186 - 198 . http://doi.org/10.1177/ 0146167297232007


This is a preview of a remote PDF: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0219760&type=printable

Tomasz Frackowiak, Anna Oleszkiewicz, Corinna E. Löckenhoff, Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski. Community size and perception of older adults in the Cook Islands, PLOS ONE, 2019, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219760