What is Ageism?
Ageism is discrimination that occurs due to someone’s age. It can impact people of all ages but can limit the quality of life of older age groups in particular. It can be a once-off occurrence, or it can happen due to policies or rules based on age. People can make assumptions or discriminate against those younger or older than them, and this can negatively impact their wellbeing and reinforce stereotypes.
How many types of ageism are there?
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, there are 4 main types of ageism.
1. Direct ageism
This occurs when a person treats you worse than another person who is in a similar situation because of your age. An example of this may be if your employer denies you the opportunity to complete a training course because they think you are too old, meanwhile, your younger colleagues have no problem accessing this opportunity.
2. Indirect ageism
This type of ageism may occur when an organisation has a policy that applies to everyone but places people in your age group at a disadvantage. For example, if you are in your early twenties and are not eligible for promotion because the organisation’s policy requires employees to have a postgraduate qualification in order to be promoted. While this policy applies to everyone, younger employees can be at a disadvantage because they may be less likely to have such a qualification.
Harassment happens when a person humiliates, offends or degrades you because of your age. An example of this could be if you are attending a learning session and the leader of the session repeatedly comments on how slow an older employee is at learning how to use a new piece of software.
Victimisation occurs when you are treated poorly after making a complaint about age discrimination under the Equality Act. It may also happen if you are supporting someone who has made an age discrimination complaint. An example of this is if your manager treats you negatively for supporting a colleague who submits a claim about that manager’s ageist behaviour.
Why is ageism an issue?
Ageism is an issue because it can have serious impacts on individual’s health and wellbeing. For older people, ageism is linked to poorer mental and physical health, higher social isolation, higher financial insecurity and decreased quality of life. Age discrimination has very real consequences, particularly in the workplace.
A UK survey on young people’s perceptions of older adults in the workplace revealed that only 26% of those asked believed people over the age of 70 were perceived as capable compared to 41% of those under 30 being perceived the same way. In another study, it was shown that job candidates with an older age were between 39% and 72% less likely to be invited for an interview compared to equal candidates of a younger age. But this is not just an issue that affects older people. Forty-three percent of British youth reported age discrimination as the most frequent type of discrimination compared to other categories like gender, race and sexual orientation.
Ageism is highly prevalent across the world and there are multiple ways that it can affect our lives. Nobody is exempt from being discriminated against due to their age so it is important we support pour colleagues in the workplace, being mindful not to stereotype or exclude anyone from opportunities on account of their age.
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