Ageism is when someone is discriminated against or treated unfairly because of their age.
It’s sometimes called age discrimination and can also include the way that older people are represented in the media.
Oxford dictionary definition of ageism: Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.
Why is ageism a problem?
The way something is represented in popular culture or in society can directly change people’s views on it.
Ageism leads the public to think that being older is a negative thing when it can be one of the best times of our life.
Negative attitudes towards ageing has been proven to impact older people’s quality of life and ultimately their life span.
As we live in an ageing population, more people will be experiencing age discrimination than ever before.
Ageism in stats
- 2 billion people will be over 60 years old by the year 2050*
- When someone thinks positively about ageing their life expectancy is increased by 7.5 years*
Examples of ageism
Sometimes it’s not always clear that you’ve been subject to ageism. Here are some examples of discrimination based on age:
- Not being chosen for a job because of your age, or losing a job because of your age
- Not being considered for a promotion above someone else who is younger
- Being refused a financial product because of your age, including interest-free credit, a new credit card or insurances
- Experiencing a lower quality of service in a shop or restaurant because of your age
- Being refused membership to a club or association
Ageist language and phrases
People might not like to think about growing older, but its something that we actually hope will happen someday.
Ageing doesn’t have to be scary or negative, and we can start changing perceptions of ageing by not using these phrases.
- "Past it"
- "Over the hill"
- "Mutton dressed as lamb"
- "Decrepit old man/woman"
- "Drive like an old lady"
- "Grumpy old man"
- "Old fogey"
- "Out of touch"
Top 10 phrases you don't realise are ageist
Certain phrases might seem like they’re positive or not necessarily negative, but when they’re used, they make you think that being older is a negative.
- "You still have time"
- "You look good for your age"
- "Ladies of a certain age"
- "You’re still working?”"
- "A senior moment"
- "Little old lady"
- "Cute old man"
- "Can’t teach an old dog new tricks"
- "You’re young at heart"
Ageism in the workplace
Age discrimination at work is one of the most common forms of ageism. This can happen in:
- Recruitment – leaving someone older unable to get an interview, or if they do, to miss out on the job over someone who is younger
- Training – employers may not offer someone who is older as many training opportunities as they think they are near the end of their career
- Promotion – again, older people may miss out on a promotion over someone younger due to being nearer to retirement age
- Retirement – age is no longer a reliable indicator for retirement, though outdated views on what should be a retired age can affect how an employer treats some of its workers
Ageism in the workplace is so common because some employers think older workers are not as health, educated, skilful or productive as their younger co-workers.
This is an outdated view and older workers can be just as, or if not more, productive and employable as younger people.
The Equality Act
Thanks to The Equality Act 2010, UK citizens are now legally protected from age discrimination as well as eight other kinds of discrimination.
The Equality Act means that unfair treatment on the basis of personal characteristics such as age is now illegal in almost all cases. The Act applies to:
- Gender reassignment
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage or civil partnership
- Pregnancy or maternity
How to fight ageism
As the population of older adults continues to increase, finding ways to minimise ageism will become even more important.
Read our Ageist Britain? Report to look more deeply at the thoughts, feelings and science behind ageism.