Previous studies have linked coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to a rise in ageism. While a growing body of research examined hostile ageism during the pandemic, benevolent ageism received less attention. Drawing on the stereotype content theory and the classic tripartite model of attitudes, the current study explored how benevolent and hostile ageism are reflected in the cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions of attitudes toward older adults in German COVID-19-related tweets. The study examined the most prevalent attitudes as well as changes in prevalence between the first and second lockdown period in Germany.
Seven hundred and ninety-two German tweets concerning COVID-19 and aging were collected and coded using Mayring’s qualitative content analysis with a dominantly inductive approach. Quantitative methods were used to identify the most prevalent subthemes as well as changes in prevalence.
The coding resulted in 21 subthemes. Most tweets (60.73%) contained either hostile or benevolent ageist attitudes, with benevolent ageism being more prevalent. The top 5 subthemes in terms of prevalence and reach contained several opposing attitudes, such as devaluation and opposing devaluation. The chi-square tests revealed a shift from a promotion to an evaluation of COVID-19-related policies between the 2 lockdowns.
Results highlight social media’s polarizing effect and its potential contribution to both hostile and benevolent ageism in the context of COVID-19 in Germany. Results indicate the need to consider the adverse effects of benevolent ageism and use of chronological age as risk factor, when designing COVID-19-related policies.