Intergenerational solidarity to tackle ageism
The work and experience of equality bodies (collected here and here) confirm that ageism and high levels of discrimination against older people present a major barrier to any ambition for active ageing. Equinet, on behalf of equality bodies, calls for a reinforced intergenerational solidarity to call attention to and tackle the pervasive ageism affecting in particular older people and younger people.
Ageism is a widespread and damaging phenomenon across Europe, according meaning to chronological age such that people all too often judge or assess a person’s capacity, ambition and worth on the basis of their age.
Ageism generates discrimination and inequality in particular for older people and for younger people. It blocks their access to and enjoyment of resources such as jobs and incomes, education, health and accommodation. It leads to discrimination and poverty. It blocks their access to power and decision making. Certain stereotypes mean that often they do not get a say in decisions that impact on them. It blocks their access to and enjoyment of status and standing in society. The result of this is that their needs are not deemed to be a priority and are often not given due consideration. It blocks their access to relationships of care, love, solidarity and respect.
Everyday ageism finds expression in institutional systems, individual attitudes and inter-generational relationships.
Institutional practices reflecting this ageist culture include the use of age limits to govern access to services or employment and inadequate policy responses to the situation of younger and older people such that they find themselves marginalised and disadvantaged in society.
Individual attitudes reflecting this ageist culture cover a range of stereotypes and false assumptions. These stereotypes and assumptions such as the supposed lack of capacity for innovation of older people, relate to the supposed dated nature of the skills held by older people, and the supposed dependence, passivity or vulnerability of older people. In turn, young people are stereotypically labelled as inexperienced, irresponsible or even dangerous or violent.
Inter-generational relationships reflecting this ageist culture start from a norm that appears to suggest that discrimination based on age is somehow justifiable and even normal in being part of how things have always been done. This makes discrimination based on age harder to name as a problem and less visible as an issue. Harmful inter-generational relationships can also stretch to physical, emotional and verbal abuse of older people on the basis of their age. In particular equality bodies deal with a range of allegations from older people of harassment in the workplace and in the provision of services.
Ageism does not only concern today’s younger or older generations, but every one of us. Older people have been young, they still might feel young and often have relationships of care and love with young people. We will all grow old one day and if we do not change our mindsets, we will face the same ageist stereotypes and discrimination as today’s older generations.
Intergenerational solidarity must be reinforced and it has to be achieved through open discussions between generations in order to understand current challenges and respond to them. There is no single generation that is safe from ageism and discrimination and all generations have immense potential and capacities to contribute to better and more equal societies. Intergenerational solidarity is about valuing dignity and care, as well as acknowledging and capitalising on the potential of all, benefiting everyone in society.
National equality bodies are independent public institutions promoting equality and combating discrimination in their countries. Equinet is the European network of 46 equality bodies in 34 European countries facilitating peer learning and exchanges as well as informing equality law and policies at European level. Equality bodies work to end age-based discrimination against young and older persons, and promote their equal participation in society. Equinet facilitates this work by raising the capacity of equality bodies through activities such as the seminar on tackling age discrimination against young people (2018) and a planned seminar on equality bodies promoting equality for older persons (2019).