Many see ageism as socially acceptable, but it can be stopped

Ageism seen as socially acceptable, says the World Health Organisation.

How to stop ageism

Ageism is the most socially acceptable prejudice on the planet, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination toward people because of their age is more accepted than racism or sexism.

But to date, no one has established whether interventions that claim to change ageist attitudes actually work.

Researchers from Cornell University have shown, for the first time, that it is possible to reduce ageist attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes.

Programs that foster intergenerational contact, combined with education about the ageing process and its misconceptions, worked best at reducing ageist attitudes, according to their study.

“The most surprising thing was how well some of these programs worked,” said co-author and gerontologist Professor Karl Pillemer.

The WHO, which recruited the Cornell-led team to do the study, will use the research to inform its global anti-ageism strategy.

“If we teach people more about ageing – if they’re less frightened of it, less negative about it and less uncomfortable interacting with older people – that helps,” Prof. Pillemer said.

“If we get them into contact with older people, where they’re getting to know each other, that also helps. And if you put those two things together, we found that works best of all.”

The interventions had the greatest impact on women, teens and young adults, according to the study.

Society is rife with ageist attitudes, from television and movies depicting older people as buffoons with memory problems, to workplace discrimination where older people are seen as unable to keep up with technology.

“People believe that older people are mentally deficient, that they are less likely to be competent,” Prof. Pillemer said.

These macro- and micro-aggressions can have serious negative effects on the mental and physical health of older people.

Physicians with ageist attitudes may misdiagnose their older patients, for example, or exclude them from particular treatments.

Moreover, older people tend to adopt society’s negative attitudes toward ageing – and those who do are more likely to experience psychological distress and physical illness. They even die 7.5 years sooner on average than those who have a more positive attitude about ageing, according to research by Yale psychologist Becca Levy, another member of the WHO ageism project.

“Everybody, if they’re lucky enough, is going to become an older person,” Prof. Pillemer said. “Ageism eventually affects every member of a society.”

The researchers analysed 63 studies, conducted between 1976 and 2018, with a total of 6124 participants. The studies evaluated three types of interventions that aimed to curb ageism: education, intergenerational contact, and a combination of the two.

The most successful programs combined both education and intergenerational contact, said lead author David Burnes of the University of Toronto.

“When both components are in place, you’re helping people see ageing in a more realistic and positive way,” he said, “and you’re increasing familiarity, breaking down some of those misconceptions that may exist between two different age groups.”

Importantly, Prof. Pillemer said, these interventions are both low-cost and easy to replicate.

“Volunteer organisations and after-school programs should think about involving some of these methods to reduce ageist attitudes,” he said, “because they are effective and easy to implement.”

The WHO will use the research to create an upcoming global report on ageism.

In Australia, the EveryAGE Counts campaign is a national advocacy campaign aimed at shifting dominant negative social norms about ageing and older people and positively influencing the way all Australians think about ageing and older people.

Launched in October 2018, the campaign’s vision is a society where every person is valued, connected and respected, regardless of age and functional health.

Campaign co-chair Robert Tickner said addressing ageism – especially in the workforce – is an issue for all Australians.

“Every Australian has the right to participate equally in our communities, to be valued and heard at every age. The very challenging goal of the EveryAGE Counts campaign is to shift destructive and deeply entrenched social norms that are currently limiting and preventing this equal participation,” said Mr Tickner.

“If we want current and future generations to have the chance to age well – and our whole society to benefit from the full participation of all its citizens, including older people – it is essential that we adequately address the issue of ageism.”

Have you ever been a victim of ageism? What happened in your situation? Should more be done to combat ageism?

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    COMMENTS

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    gerry
    25th Jun 2019
    10:45am
    When I reached retirement my friend and I walked into Makkers and asked for their free coffee for pensioners, and the beautiful girl behind the counter said could she see my pension card so I suggested that if she thought I was too young would she go out with me that night and

    she said " no offence but here,s your coffee"
    gerry
    25th Jun 2019
    10:45am
    When I reached retirement my friend and I walked into Makkers and asked for their free coffee for pensioners, and the beautiful girl behind the counter said could she see my pension card so I suggested that if she thought I was too young would she go out with me that night and

    she said " no offence but here,s your coffee"
    patti
    25th Jun 2019
    11:15am
    At 75 I don't look or act my age. But during a recent spell in hospital I experience some negative ageism, which I did not appreciate. I'm not sure how we change these attitudes, my way is to call it out every time.
    Charlie
    25th Jun 2019
    12:29pm
    Do people treat you badly because you are old and useless, or disrespect you because you look younger than you say and are getting the pension..There seems to be no escape.

    Don't give them any good advice, let them find out things the hard way
    TREBOR
    25th Jun 2019
    2:04pm
    Same here - hit 70 this month and still mistaken for a 50-odd yo.. if only..... the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, as they say...
    jackie
    25th Jun 2019
    2:07pm
    patti, are you sure it was ageism or just plain neglected because the staff was too busy and flustered. Neglect happens to all age groups in hospitals. Hospitals are no longer places of healing. Those that can't help themselves suffer the most.
    TREBOR
    25th Jun 2019
    7:56pm
    Hospitals have become homes of ego-pumping for 'health professionals' - some of whom are no way professional in any way. Age of Entitlement, you know.

    I have the good luck to be able to speak doctortalk and other dialects, and I treat my doctors as equals - some love that - others are taken aback...
    Julian
    26th Jun 2019
    12:18pm
    Patti,

    Just remember something:

    Growing old is mandatory.
    Growing up is optional.
    Old Man
    25th Jun 2019
    11:15am
    I have always treated elderly people with respect because that is the way that I was brought up. Now that I am classified as elderly, I don't have too many problems with ageism from those younger than me. Yes, there are some rude people around but they don't discriminate; they are rude to everybody. We're quite comfortable with the way we are treated.
    jackie
    25th Jun 2019
    1:54pm
    Old Man, yes we were raised to respect the elders back then. Those were different times back then. The population was a lot less and the majority of children were raised with the same values.

    Children during the past 20 years were raised by parents with very different values.

    I agree, there is rudeness across all age groups including the aged. I have never encountered any problems and worked past my pension age. I was offered to return to work to do two days a week but don't want to get the pension abolished for future generations.
    Dabbydoos
    25th Jun 2019
    11:23am
    Have found since becoming a " wrinkly" I have also become invisible in the majority of shops. The exception was Ally Fashion a shop directed towards teenagers, I visited looking for something for my granddaughter, I was addressed immediately in a very nice manner and advised the assistant it was a pleasant change. I was the object of intense ageism at my last job.
    flanjam
    25th Jun 2019
    11:31am
    Ageism is alive and well, believe me! In recent times I've been yelled at for being old and parking in a disabled carpark (voucher attached), ignored when waiting to be served to the point where I'm beginning to believe I might be invisible and recently in Hong Kong on the very busy rail system, people young and younger bounced out of their seats for me to be seated (it was Go Grey in May (supporting Brain Cancer). I've noticed if I use my walker most people move aside or wait for me to pass so maybe that's the trick but I can't manoeuvre it out of the car if I'm by myself, so I expect to be much longer than I would have been a few years back because I have to wait, and wait, and wait!!!
    TREBOR
    25th Jun 2019
    2:07pm
    Know what you mean about the parking card - I've got one, and look as fit as a bull ...what they don't know is that I can't cover the required distance without severe pain... so when they call me out on it, I say -"The hardest part of the test to get this card is minding your own falcon business!"

    Looks can be deceiving...
    flanjam
    25th Jun 2019
    11:31am
    Ageism is alive and well, believe me! In recent times I've been yelled at for being old and parking in a disabled carpark (voucher attached), ignored when waiting to be served to the point where I'm beginning to believe I might be invisible and recently in Hong Kong on the very busy rail system, people young and younger bounced out of their seats for me to be seated (it was Go Grey in May (supporting Brain Cancer). I've noticed if I use my walker most people move aside or wait for me to pass so maybe that's the trick but I can't manoeuvre it out of the car if I'm by myself, so I expect to be much longer than I would have been a few years back because I have to wait, and wait, and wait!!!
    jackie
    25th Jun 2019
    2:01pm
    flanjam, maybe you have to wait in this busy fast-paced world because people can see you are retired.
    Janus
    25th Jun 2019
    11:58am
    When I was employed, I was treated as "that old guy" and my advice was usually ignored. After I retired, I got calls for ages asking for that advice - you don't know what you've got til it's gone, it seems.

    Too late, mate. The young are keen to strut their stuff, but they lack that certain something - we call it "wisdom", but they don't understand.

    To the ladies: I understand the comment of "invisible". Well, to me, you are not invisible, you are just as attractive or more so than than when you were younger and sillier. Lots of women only become themselves when they get older. Such a stupid society we have!!
    Old Man
    25th Jun 2019
    12:18pm
    Ah yes Janus, you have reminded me of when a group of us was made redundant with over 300 years of experience amongst us. I was contacted within a fortnight asking about a section that was previously under my control. I gave some details about it and was told that it was exactly what the company needed and I was asked to pop in to clarify a few things. I immediately agreed but commented that I was now a free agent and as a consultant was charging $200 per hour, minimum 4 hours, payable in cash in advance. There was silence at the other end which was broken by the remark that they would get back to me. Still waiting.

    None of us is irreplaceable but the years of experience in how to do the job successfully with a minimum of fuss, time and cost cannot be replaced immediately, that's what experience is. To those who consider that they are irreplaceable, get a bucket of water, plunge your arm in and quickly withdraw it. If you leave a hole then you are irreplaceable.
    Polly Esther
    25th Jun 2019
    12:52pm
    Old Man - I just absolutely love your reply addressed to Janus. Had me giggling while reading it and now I'm sitting here with a knowing contented smile. Well done, love it.
    Charlie
    25th Jun 2019
    12:19pm
    I would expect ageism to vary with different countries and customs.

    Better make sure the world health organization takes that one into account.

    The world doesn't have to believe or comply with what they say.
    Triss
    25th Jun 2019
    12:44pm
    Unfortunately it's a trickle down effect, Government demeans the elderly by cutting pension benefits, constantly changing rules and not addressing the financial and physical abuses in care homes. The media frequently prints articles about the elderly burdening the health service, negative stereotyping and directing the blame on older people for economic and social woes. Much of that goes into the community and is accepted as fact.
    KSS
    25th Jun 2019
    1:05pm
    Ageism is not a one way street though is it? How many oldies 'complain' about the younger generations calling them entitled, not prepared to make sacrifices, want everything NOW, etc etc.

    We are all guilty of ageism if we are honest!
    jackie
    25th Jun 2019
    2:16pm
    KSS, I think ageism is mainly related to the workforce. Adults fifty plus have a harder time getting work. Many have to downgrade their jobs to different industries with lower pay and work conditions to survive.

    Ageism is rife on public transport. All are full of young people with heads buried in their phones sitting on seats for the elderly and disabled and none will give up the seats for them.
    Paddington
    25th Jun 2019
    2:50pm
    Our 53 year old son has just landed an amazing job as an international general manager of a company so experience and education does count for something as well. He could also have been overlooked for being overweight but he was not.
    Oldies attack the younger generation as well at times!
    KSS
    25th Jun 2019
    4:58pm
    And about 24% of youth are unemployed in some areas because they are young and inexperienced. As I said ageism is not a one way street.
    TREBOR
    25th Jun 2019
    7:59pm
    Chatting to a lady today and mentioned the famous 'blankets, cellular' we were issued with in the Central Highlands (gets cold up there at night) - one was supposed to do the job of Superman - within 24 hours everyone had two at least....

    When the youngies get some practice at that sort of thing, let me know...
    Paddington
    25th Jun 2019
    8:07pm
    KSS, nice to find something we can agree on. Unemployment among our youth is a big problem that should be addressed. More should be done like TAFE reinstated and a focus on jobs for the young.
    rtrish
    25th Jun 2019
    1:07pm
    Yes, we are invisible, I’ve found. I now use a walking stick and that is useful in “signalling” that I need assistance. E.g. on the buses(in Canberra), the driver is more willing to lower the bus so I can get on and off. Unfortunately, in Canberra we recently had a brand-spanking new Light Rail system (i.e. tram) installed. What most of us did not realise is that, at the same time, the planners forced a massive upheaval of the entire city transport buses. Cutting many bus routes; making others into weird “spoke and wheels,” where the tram takes you part-way, drops you off and you HOPE some other bus turns up to take you on the rest of the journey. All very well for the young and fit. Desperately difficult for those of us older, ill or with disabilities. Also young children. Transport Canberra DON’T WANT TO KNOW. Unfortunately this coincided with Canberra’s winter. With massive asthma and a chest infection, no way am I going to risk this new travel. I have not visited my grandchildren for many weeks. When I do get back to visiting, I’ll probably have to go part-way by cab. I am NEVER voting for this ACT Labor/Greens gov’t again.
    TREBOR
    25th Jun 2019
    8:00pm
    I have a handmade walking stick given to me by a Major in the Scots Guards - deters demon drivers when crossing the road when I adopt a cricket batsman stance...
    Buggsie
    25th Jun 2019
    1:08pm
    One of the most blatant forms of ageism is perpetrated by the NSW government through its licensing laws for those of us over 75. Compulsory medical tests for those between 75 and 85? Sounds OK but why? Has this measure really reduced the road toll in this age group? Not according to statistics from other states in Australia, all of whom DO NOT force older drivers to have compulsory medicals. Some of the stuff recorded as relevant to my driving ability includes - "cataracts, but removed 3 years ago" and "anxiety" . I can't see (no pun intended) that once cataracts are removed they continue to affect my vision and as for the anxiety, its probably caused by all of the bullshit we older drivers have to put up with in NSW. What about regular drug tests for those younger drivers who are caught driving while drugged? Too hard and too costly, I guess. Much easier to target the older drivers who are already regarded with suspicion by all and sundry.
    Chris B T
    25th Jun 2019
    1:08pm
    The sorry Part Of Ageism, you only have to be Older Than the Person who believes you to be to Old.
    This can be any age, more noticeable in late 30's on woulds.
    If you have only noticed Ageism beyond 60 your lucky.
    Jim
    25th Jun 2019
    1:08pm
    There was a report at our local university in Wollongong, the report was from a young girl, the main gist of the report was, things are harder now than they were in her grandparents day, and went on to blame our generation for all of the woes of young people today, I was born in the 40’s , apparently it’s our fault that young people can’t afford a house, I think the difference is that in our day we were prepared to accept a lot less, today some people want it all and they want it now to quote the song. These attitudes don’t apply to all young people only those that want the best of everything, nothing wrong with that, I want the best of everything myself, but I have had to wait 70 years to even get some of the things I want. I guess some might call my comments ageist against the young, it’s not meant to be that way, but I guess it’s hard not to be ageist when discussing different generations.
    TREBOR
    25th Jun 2019
    2:03pm
    Ageism is so deeply entrenched that it is nigh impossible to root it out... there is ALWAYS the assumption that the OOB (Official Old Bastard) is not competent in computer stuff, is out of touch with trendy sh1t these days, 'can't keep up', has 'entrenched views'.. and (fear of fears) is more likely to disagree with a stupid manager and tell him/her so to his/her face, as well as (bastards) expecting to be treated fairly and reasonably at work.

    During last week's visit to the Deep North, the host's son came in and told us of his being invited to sit in on the reaming out of an employee by the 'manager' - when he finished I said:- "That's not a manager - that's an idiot!"

    a) you do not do such things in the presence of another, particularly as a means of 'teaching' that other how this kind of stupid management is done.

    b) if you have anything to say, say it reasonably, not like some jumped-up clown - if you wish to stay alive, that is.

    I suggested to the young lad that the company would not long survive if the 'management' carried on like a pack of entitled clowns.

    Translate that to the entrenched prejudices against older people, who will ream YOU out if you try that on... no wonder the twerps don't want OOGs in the place. Like driving on the highways - I was doing it before your father was born, so what you think you know is nothing - you are in the hands of a Master, so don't fork up!
    hyacinth
    25th Jun 2019
    4:53pm
    I refuse to be called old I am 83. I retired at 60 ...for 4 months and then I was offered three different positions ( I was a teacher). So back to work . Retired again at 66.Then I saw a position advertised that I thought would suit me so at the age of 72 I applied for the position and was accepted. I continued working up to the age of 82.My young colleagues were great and I became a part of their group both in work and on social occasions. I consider myself very fortunate because these young colleagues and the students in the school kept me young at heart. For me, age is but a number.( I have only just learned about the free coffee !!!)
    hyacinth
    25th Jun 2019
    4:53pm
    I refuse to be called old I am 83. I retired at 60 ...for 4 months and then I was offered three different positions ( I was a teacher). So back to work . Retired again at 66.Then I saw a position advertised that I thought would suit me so at the age of 72 I applied for the position and was accepted. I continued working up to the age of 82.My young colleagues were great and I became a part of their group both in work and on social occasions. I consider myself very fortunate because these young colleagues and the students in the school kept me young at heart. For me, age is but a number.( I have only just learned about the free coffee !!!)
    Triss
    25th Jun 2019
    5:35pm
    That's fabulous, Hyacinth.
    KSS
    25th Jun 2019
    5:18pm
    I do wish advertisers would learn that older people want more than incontinence pads and funeral insurance.
    popster
    26th Jun 2019
    3:35pm
    I am in my 60's and I have witnessed some extremely grumpy gestures from older folk maybe in there 70's and I must say the grumpiest and some of the poorest manners like excuse me etc are from women in supermarkets. Maybe we older ones need to be a little kinder as well.
    Misty
    27th Jun 2019
    12:18am
    I am 82 and have found the staff at our supermarkets mostly very helpful, asking when packing my bags, 'Are you sure this won't be too heavy for you" etc, I don't look at this as ageism just staff bring considerate.


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