Ageism hurts and it is discrimination

Posted On: 
16th July 2018

Today Independent Age are launching Ageism Plus, showcasing the lived experiences of older people to explore what is the reality of multiple discrimination for many older people and look for solutions and change.

Credit: 
PA Images

“Being old is an adventure, but not an adventure holiday where you get your campsite set up for you. It’s an adventure as in being abandoned on Dartmoor with a water bottle. It’s challenging, it’s scary, it’s messy, it’s frightening, and it’s got its own rewards”. Joan

In conversation with older people, we find the topic of ageism often comes up. Sometimes it isn’t referred to as ageism, but feelings of being invisible, not being taken seriously, ignored in shops or assumptions about being incompetent or incapable are commonly raised. This is ageism, it hurts and it is discrimination.

Increasingly, we have also heard stories about older people facing multiple forms of prejudice. Some people have faced lifelong prejudice – sexism, racism, homophobia – and found they face a “double whammy” of discrimination as they grow older. One woman told us about feeling “forced back into the closet” when she reached her late 60s due to the prejudice she experienced. Others recalled the “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” signs of the 1950s and the feeling that the racism fuelling such views has never really gone away.  

Many forms of prejudice and stigma have received a lot of attention recently. Sexism and mental health are good examples. But the focus is invariably on younger people and people of working age. Rarely are older people the priority demographic. The scandalous treatment of the Windrush generation is a notable exception.

We are starting a conversation about older people’s experiences of discrimination.

Today we launching Ageism Plus, showcasing the lived experiences of older people, alongside the views of other experts such as the Fawcett Society, Race Foundation, Terrence Higgins Trust, Women’s Aid and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We explore what is the reality of multiple discrimination for many older people today and look for solutions and change.

Starting with Ageism and Sexism, each week we will be examining a theme of prejudice or stigma experienced by older people. We cover racism, mental health, dementia, abuse, disability and health, LGBT+ and work and money. The series comprises blogs, videos, quotes, and even poems and artwork expressing what it’s like to face lifelong prejudice with the “double whammy” of ageist attitudes and behaviours.

In our launch week we hear from men and women about their experiences of ageism and sexism. Baroness Ros Altmann (former Pensions Minister) shares her thoughts on the barriers women face at work as they age. We have four stories from older people about their experience of gender inequality and older men talking about feeling isolated and the challenges of ageing without children. To remind us that positive experiences of ageing are possible, an inspirational art project of older women enjoying life to the full. And Sam Smethers of the Fawcett Society sums up the challenge of sexism in later life nicely when she tells us that “invisibility is just the beginning for older women and ageing is not for the faint hearted”.

Independent Age believes that everyone should be treated fairly and equally in later life. Join the conversation at Ageism Plus and help us make it a reality.