Ageing and life-course

Fighting stereotypes

28 March 2012


We all generally value and respect the older people we love or know well. But our attitudes to other older people within the broader community can be different.

In many traditional societies, older people are respected as "elders". However, in other societies, older women and men may be less respected. The marginalization can be structural, for example enforced retirement ages, or informal, such as older people being viewed as less energetic and less valuable to a potential employer.

These attitudes are examples of "ageism" - the stereotyping of, and discrimination against, individuals or groups because of their age. Ageist attitudes can portray older people as frail, "past their sell-by date", unable to work, physically weak, mentally slow, disabled or helpless. Ageism serves as a social divider between young and old.


These stereotypes can prevent older men and women from fully participating in social, political, economic, cultural, spiritual, civic and other activities. Younger people may also influence these decisions in the attitudes they convey to older people, or even by building barriers to their participation.

Ageist stereotypes can also prevent us meeting the challenges of population ageing since they can prevent us asking the right questions or finding innovative solutions.

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