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Physical activity and successful aging
10th International EGREPA Conference

European Group for Research into Elderly and Physical Activity

14.09. - 16.09.2006 in Köln

Types of aging and physical activity

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author A. Thiel - University of Tübingen, Germany
  • U. Gomolinksy - University of Stuttgart, Germany

Physical activity and successful aging. Xth International EGREPA Conference. Cologne, 14.-16.09.2006. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2006. Doc06pasa084

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: December 18, 2006

© 2006 Thiel et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



With today's ever changing social roles and living environment, it is especially harder for elderly people to find the clues necessary to establish a stable identity. Successful aging now relies on the development of the individual’s self-perception/ self-image (cp. Thiel, 1994).

Individual self-perceptions are in turn influenced by social stereotypes of aging, thus the image of other people play an important role in how an individual perceives oneself within a socially determined framework (Lehr, 1984).

In modern societies it is assumed that elderly people do not only undergo ‘natural’ age-related health restrictions but also a dominating ideology of youthfulness, which contrasts the widespread negative stereotype of aging. This becomes a problem for elderly people as soon as they internalize this image of other people.

Thus, elderly people, whose expectations are derived from negative ideas on aging, tend to identify with the unpleasant incidents in everyday life and overlook the positive aspects of aging.

This seems to be due to the fact that individuals confine their behavioral spectrum in terms of the predetermined setting of a particular framework (cp. Lehr & Schneider, 1984, p. 34).

Previous surveys regarding participation in sports indicate that middle and old aged people are comparatively inactive. Against the background of the research concerning self-perception and the image of other elderly people, the question arises as to what extent this age group’s abstinence from sports is attributed to the fact that elderly people undertake inappropriate physical activity for their age.

In the theoretical part of our lecture we will first be responsive to the correlation between stereotypes of aging, self-perception and physical activity. Afterwards, we will introduce initial results of a research project sponsored by the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg, in which facts about aging stereotypes and leisure activities amongst other things were appraised trough a representative survey of people between the age of 50 and 70 (n=2000).