Action on ageism

Is our society “ageist”? And, if so, to what extent, how much does it damage the lives of older people… and how do we tackle this problem?

Certainly, surveys amongst older people themselves consistently reveal that many believe that ageist attitudes have adversely impacted their employment prospects or access to health care, or ability to obtain financial products such as mortgages and travel insurance. 

The media must also shoulder some of the responsibility for their persistent use of negative, ageist tropes that demean or devalue, and erode people’s sense of self-worth. People as young as their 60s are often described as “elderly”, or as an “OAP”. And the obsession with using a person’s age by the media when it is often totally irrelevant to the story lends itself to society judging a person not on their abilities or achievements, but how old they are… when age is often a far less distinctive characteristic than (for instance) their education or political views. 

Increasing digitisation also makes many older people feel left behind and “designed out” of society, while council decisions such as closing public toilets have made many of our city and town centres “no-go” areas for a large swathe of the population. The concept of an age-friendly built environment is a welcome and long overdue response to making our society truly inclusive.

The danger of ageism, like other forms of prejudice, is that it can all-too-often be socially divisive: older people are commonly depicted as either vulnerable or living featherbedded lives at the expense of others. In an image-obsessed world, it’s all too easy to forget that youth and beauty are not actual talents, and that older people have a major contribution to make too.

Get involved

In this Action Area, we hope to explore the incidence and impact of ageism – and how we can play a small but hopefully significant part in changing the narrative. We plan to run surveys and focus groups on this, as well as publish comment, news and research. To contribute towards this work, do please email

The Age Action Alliance is supported by

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