This paper seeks to include older adults in the dialogue on addressing racism, to explore their perceptions of social problems, their personal biases, their interests in addressing racism, and factors that may have influenced their changing world views in the past.
Methods: Five focus groups with 40 total participants were conducted with older adults residing in a town for people who are ages 55 and over. In addition, 40 self-administered surveys were distributed. The participants were equally divided between males and females, entirely White, middle/middle-upper class, and heterosexual. Participants were recruited by phoning social club leaders listed on the town’s website and inviting their groups to attend focus groups. The focus groups and surveys gathered participants perspectives on social problems and how to address social problems. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded thematically, guided by the principles of grounded theory and an inductive approach to qualitative analysis.
Findings: Data analysis reveals that study participants perceive racism as a social problem and furthermore they expressed interest in becoming involved in efforts to address racism. Participants share biases that they have and ultimately their desire to change their misperceptions. Participants identify their childhood, when segregation by race, religion, and ethnicity was legal as impacting their perceptions. Findings suggest that older adults are interested and capable of joining efforts to address racism.
Conclusion and Implications: Findings highlight the desire of older adults to participate in addressing racism, as well as their willingness to explore their own biases. By including older adults in addressing racism, inventions will be more inclusive of this population and thereby more effective in eliminating racism which impacts all ages, systems, and institutions within the United States.