Tackling ageism

A webinar heard how ageism is everywhere and often internalised and called for individuals and institutions to join together to counter it.

Age bias at work


Ageism needs to be confronted every day, including internalised discrimination, a webinar heard last week.

The  Centre for Ageing Better webinar on tackling ageism highlighted how ageism is part of our everyday life, from birthday cards that talk about being over the hill, phrases such as having ‘senior moments’ and the presence of anti-ageing products to underdiagnosis of mental health issues and age discrimination at work. Covid-19 policy has reflected that with its blanket idea that all over 70s are vulnerable and negative debates about old people being a burden.

However, the webinar heard that more and more organisations and individuals are committed to tackling it, including over 100 organisations who have signed up to Centre for Ageing Better’s statement on healthy ageing.

Carol Burns from Leeds Neighbourhood Network said that on an individual basis she is always upfront about her age. She said there was massive pressure not to talk about age when we get older and being confident about your age is one way of combatting ageism. “So many people have internalised ageism, especially women,” she said. She also challenges people who say that someone looks younger than their age, asking what 70, 80, etc looks like.

She said it was important not to lump over 50s together with people who are nearing 100. There were big differences between different generations. Her work in Leeds focused on celebrating individuals and older people generally, recognising their life experience and encouraging intergenerational activities. She added that an equal approach was important. “Ageism affects all people,” she said, adding that individuals and institutions need to spread the word about the damage ageism does.

Nick Stace, Chief Strategy Officer at Saga, spoke about the way Saga is rebranding to celebrate age and break the myths about it. He had been involved in taking a bill to Parliament that outlawed age discrimination in job adverts many years ago. However, despite that progress, he said, attitudes had not generally changed.

The Centre for Ageing Better has just launched a competition for people to suggest new age-positive icons for older people than the usual ones such as people walking with a stick.

Supported by Public Health England, the free online competition wants people to rethink the symbols and icons commonly used in public to represent ageing and older age groups and to come up with new icons that challenge stereotypes and imagery associated with old age. Like all icons, it says, the designs need to be simple and instantly recognisable – and appropriate for use in reports, presentations, infographics and other related outputs as a way of visually denoting ‘ageing’ or ‘older people’. The competition is open until 16th October.

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