- This paper sets out the policy position of Cymru Older Peoples Alliance on ageism and age discrimination.
2. Ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice and/or discrimination against people based on their age or perceived age. The Centre for Ageing Better (2023) has identified three main types of ageism:
- Institutional ageism, when ageism is embedded in laws, rules, social norms, policies, and the practices of institutions
- Interpersonal ageism occurs in the interactions between individuals
- Self-directed ageism is when a person internalises ageism due to repeated exposure to ageist messages and, as a result, modifies their thinking and behaviour
- Research has shown that ageism and age discrimination can have negative effects on health outcomes, including increased stress and decreased well-being, decreased self-esteem, increased loneliness, and decreased physical and mental health. Research by the Centre for Ageing Better (2023) demonstrates how ageism causes deep and lasting harm to people and society, directly and indirectly, exacerbating social divisions and inequalities and damaging our economy. The Commissioner for Older People in Wales has identified the following impacts of ageism:
- Losing important roles in life (e.g., in work, within the family or the community), as well as losing influence, choice and self-esteem.
- Experiencing an erosion of social stimulation and networks, physical activity, health, and financial security.
- Experiencing depression, frustration, exclusion, rejection, isolation, loneliness, and humiliation.
- Not being treated with dignity, respect, or equality.
Legislation and Policies
- There is a range of legislation and policies in place to address age discrimination:
- United Nations Principles for Older People – which is embedded in Welsh law – says that older persons “should be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status, and be valued independently of their economic contribution”. It also states that “older persons should remain integrated into society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations”.
- prohibits age discrimination in employment, education, and access to goods and services. The Act makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their age or to harass or victimize someone because of their age. Older people are a specified group with protected characteristics under the Act. If an individual has other protected characteristics as well, such as disability, race, or sexual orientation then the intersectional nature of discrimination and disadvantage has to be taken into account.
- The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for older workers from discrimination including direct discrimination where an employer treats a worker less favourably because of their age; indirect discrimination where a worker of a particular age group is put at a disadvantage; harassment related to age; victimisation where a complaint or grievance is made related to age discrimination.
- places a duty on local authorities to promote the well-being of older adults and to provide support for their care and independence. It is also an important feature of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
- The National Health Service (NHS) Constitution for Wales states that the NHS should provide a comprehensive service to all irrespective of age, gender, race, or disability. This document sets out the principles and values that underpin the NHS in Wales and highlights the importance of providing healthcare services based on clinical need.
- The Strategy for an Ageing Society in Wales says the vision is for “A Wales where ageismdoes not limit potential or affect the quality of services older people receive”. The Delivery Plan also states that ending ageism and age discrimination is a key priority
Whilst these laws and policies are important in tackling ageism there is more that can be done e.g., in access to goods and services, in employment, through age-friendly communities and in education and awareness.
Ageism and Age discrimination
- Some examples of ageism and age discrimination include:
- Not being helped to eat food or made to wait to use the bathroom in hospitals and care homes
- Losing a job because of your age
- Refused interest-free credit, a new credit card, car insurance or travel insurance because of your age.
- Being talked down to, patronised and infantilised
- Receiving a lower quality of service in a shop or restaurant because of the organisation’s attitude to older people
- A health screening programme excluding a particular age group without compelling evidence
- Benevolent ageism i.e., assigning protection/benefits to people because older age is assumed to identify a need.
- Refused a referral from a doctor to a consultant because you are ‘too old’
- Refused membership to a club or trade association because of your age.
- Age-restricted insurance policies that have inclusive offers on accounts including such things as travel insurance as one of the benefits but stipulate that it ceases once the person is 66 years of age.
- overlooking the over-50s consumer market (despite older age groups being responsible for half of all household spending)
There are many more examples of ageism from day-to-day life that must be systematically addressed.
What actions do COPA Want to See
- COPA want to see actions taken in the following areas as a minimum:
- Decisions on resources and budgets at a national and local level should take account of the ageing society we live in and provide a fair and proportionate outcome for policies and services that older people rely on
- Make Human Rights for Older People an entitlement: older people are still entitled to the human rights they were born with. Awareness of the Human Rights of older people must be improved across Wales. Living with dignity, having our views respected and making our own choices are all rights that should be tangible for older people
- Challenge stereotypes and changing attitudes towards ageing: Stereotypes about ageing and older adults can be pervasive and provide a “slippery slope” to discrimination and should not be used. ‘Metaphors such as ‘grey tsunami’, ‘demographic cliff’ and ‘demographic timebomb’ ‘bed blockers’ present old age in terms of crisis, reflecting a perception of old age as a societal burden and encouraging negative feelings toward the older population.’
- Implement existing laws and policies more effectively to address age discrimination including challenging inadequate practices and promoting good practices.
- Promotion of intergenerational solidarity: This can help to break down age barriers and promote positive attitudes towards ageing. We would like a funded Intergenerational Strategy to be developed nationally and implemented locally in Wales to provide a focus and momentum for change, particularly with schools.
- Positive images of ageing should be promoted by the Press and media and not use age-related stereotypes and commonly portray growing older and older age as a time of decline and frailty
- Increase awareness and education so that ageism is better understood: through public campaigns, training programmes, and educational initiatives for professionals, service providers and older people themselves.
- Encourage active ageing: Encouraging and supporting active ageing to challenge negative attitudes towards ageing and promote a positive understanding of older adults.
- Advocacy campaigns and initiatives to raise awareness about ageism and support individuals on a one-to-one basis and mainstreaming projects such as Age Cymru’s HOPE – Helping others participate and engage.
- Civic Engagement: there is a need to acknowledge older people as equal citizens and facilitate rights to civic participation and engagement as a matter of course
- Co-production must be implemented in Wales to meet the extant requirements of legislation and awareness raised of its importance in involving older people in decisions which affect them in their day-to-day lives. It is not something done for or to older people but with them.
- Whilst tackling ageism and age discrimination is being taken seriously in Wales, it is still pervasive in our society. It is truly time to deliver, to alter the mindset that ageing means that you become a drain on society. There needs to be an emphasis on the fact that ageing is natural, we all continue to grow old and society should value their older people. The harm that results from ageism and age discrimination for individuals and society must stop.
Download a Copy: Ageism and Age Discrimination
Cymru Older Peoples Alliance
Centre for Ageing Better (2023) Ageism: What’s the harm? Exploring the damaging impact of ageism on individuals and society. Ageism-harms.pdf (ageing-better.org.uk)
Commissioner for Older People in Wales: Media Guidelines for reporting on ageing and older age Media guidelines for reporting on ageing and older age – Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
Commissioner for Older People in Wales: Taking Action Against Ageism (2020) Taking Action Against Ageism – Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
Age Cymru Human Rights Project Human rights project ¦ Age Cymru (ageuk.org.uk)
Research and Evaluation Framework for Age-friendly Cities: UK Urban Ageing Consortium A Research & Evaluation Framework for Age-friendly Cities | Centre for Ageing Better (ageing-better.org.uk)
United Nations Principles for Older People https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/united-nations-principles-older-persons
Equality Act 2010 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 https://www.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-05/social-services-and-well-being-wales-act-2014-the-essentials.pdf
The National Health Service (NHS) Constitution for Wales (2021) https://law.gov.wales/public-services/health-and-health-services/national-health-service-wales
The Strategy for an Ageing Society in Wales https://www.gov.wales/age-friendly-wales-our-strategy-ageing-society-html