Learn about ageism

Ageism is everywhere

  • In advertisements of beauty products and juices that aim to ‘fight ageing’;
  • In laws that exclude people beyond a certain age from access to innovative surgical treatments, from receiving a mobility allowance and from benefiting from work-related training due to age limits;
  • in remarks such as ‘you are too old for that’;
  • in beliefs that young people are ‘smarter, more dynamic, more capable’ than the old;
  • in cases where older people are refused car insurance, credit card or travel insurance merely on the basis of their age
  • in jokes that the solution to the health crisis is to let older people die
  • in practices whereby families abandon older people in hospitals, known as ‘granny dumping
  • in the lack of investment for lifelong learning and care services for the older population
  • in fairy tales that depict older people as synonymous to forgetfulness, frailty, grumpiness and death
  • in medical diagnoses that attribute pain, soreness and sickness just to old age
  • in attitudes that consider elder abuse and neglect as normal parts of caregiving instead of wrong and harmful human rights violations
  • in extreme degrading practices, such as witch hunting.

Ageism is the most widespread form of discrimination

42 % of Europeans perceive discrimination due to old
age (being over 55 years old) as “very” or “fairly”
widespread in their country 

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Why fight ageism?

Ageism reflects the way we feel, think and act towards older age
It is based on negative stereotypes about older age. We develop such stereotypes as early as 4 years old. Think about it. If you ask a child to draw an older person they will most likely use curved figures, grey hair, wrinkles, walking sticks, glasses and other characteristics reflecting physical and mental decline.
Ageism affects our health and wellbeing
As we get older we internalise these stereotypes, we try to hide our age and we fear ageing. According to research internalised ageism affects our health, our opportunities for social inclusion and may also be a risk for poverty and abuse. Ageism also undermines our memory, sense of autonomy and self-esteem.
We can all benefit from fighting ageism
As individuals we can gain on average 7.5 of life by holding positive attitudes towards older age. As society, we can benefit from the skills, experience and knowledge of the older generation by actively involving them in decision-making, in our communities, in paid and unpaid work and so on.
Stop thinking about older people as different. Older people are not a group set apart; ageing is a continuous and normal process that concerns everyone. Do not talk about older people as ‘they’ instead reflect on how ageism affects ‘us’
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Watch Ashton Applewhite at TED

Are you ageist?

Did you know that in contrast to common beliefs that portray older people as sad and depressed, according to research people are happiest at the beginnings and the end of their lives? To check your own misconceptions and prejudices about ageing, see:

Ageism drives human rights abuses

“Athough the Universal Declaration on Human Rights proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal, it is evident that the enjoyment of all human rights diminishes with age, owing to the negative notion that older persons are somehow less productive, less valuable to society and a burden to the economy and to younger generations.”

UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, 2017

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Useful resources

Each one of us is ageing

Fighting ageism is a cause for ourselves and a legacy for future generations. Unless we put an end on it, it will affect us all.

Learn how to get involved