This paper presents a new scale for the assessment of the salience of age in social interaction and of levels of agreement with four age stereotypical assertions, about the characteristics of people in the ‘third age’ and the ‘fourth age’, about older people's social roles and social participation, and about the problems for society produced by population ageing. The scale was constructed by testing the agreement of a national sample of 804 German respondents aged 41–84 years with over 60 item-statements in two pilot studies. The final scale has 24 items, and was tested using a stratified sample of 1,275 subjects aged 40–75 years. Five postulated subscales were confirmed using principal components analysis: ‘age salience’ in social interaction, old age as a time of ‘developmental gains and potentials of development’, old age as a time of ‘developmental losses and risks of development’, ‘the social downgrading of older people’, and believing that ‘older people are a burden on society’. For age stereotypes and age salience, no significant sex differences were found, but those aged 58–64 years held more optimistic views about old age and population ageing than both the younger and the older age groups (with no differences between the latter). Moreover, age stereotypes and age salience varied by several social-economic variables, particularly occupational status, the rate of unemployment in the region of residence, and being resident in the eastern or western part of Germany. No significant interactions between age group and sex were found for any of the five subscales.
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