What is ageism? Types, examples, and impact on health (2022)

Ageism is prejudice or discrimination against people based on their age. It typically applies to people who are older but can also affect young people. Ageism has a negative impact on physical and mental health, and reports link it with earlier death.

This information comes from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ageism is a systemic form of oppression, but unlike other causes of inequity, such as racism, sexism, or ableism, anyone can experience it. Although it is universal, people do not always take ageism as seriously as other forms of inequity.

In this article, we will look at types and examples of ageism, its impact on health, and ways to end ageism.

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There are many ways to categorize ageism. Terms that describe where ageism takes place include:

  • institutional ageism, which occurs when an institution perpetuates ageism through its actions and policies
  • interpersonal ageism, which occurs in social interactions
  • internalized ageism, which is when a person internalizes ageist beliefs and applies them to themselves

Ageism can also vary according to a situation. For example, hostile ageism involves someone having openly aggressive beliefs about age, such as that teenagers are violent or dangerous.

(Video) Ageism in Healthcare

By contrast, benevolent ageism involves someone having patronizing beliefs towards people based on their age, such as that older adults are childlike and require guidance with basic tasks.

Another way to categorize ageism depends on whether a person is conscious of it or not. If they are, this is known as explicit ageism. If they are not aware of it, this is known as implicit ageism. For example, if a doctor unintentionally treats older and younger patients differently, this would be implicit ageism.

Data from the 2020 National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 82% of older Americans reported experiencing ageism regularly. The survey found that:

  • 65% experienced ageist messages from the media
  • 45% experienced interpersonal ageism
  • 36% had internalized ageism

Ageism comes in many forms. Some examples of ageism in the workplace include:

  • refusing to hire people over or under a certain age
  • asking for someone’s age at a job interview when it is not relevant to the work
  • enacting policies that unfairly privilege one age group over another
  • viewing older people as out of touch, less productive, or stuck in their ways
  • viewing younger people as unskilled, irresponsible, or untrustworthy
  • bullying or harassment

Some examples that appear in personal relationships include:

  • treating family members as though they are invisible, unintelligent, or expendable based on their age
  • making ageist jokes that imply someone is less valuable or less worthy of respect, based on their age
  • making offensive generalizations about a specific generation, e.g., that millennials are entitled
  • disregarding someone’s concerns or wishes due to their age
  • taking advantage of someone’s age for personal gain, such as to make money
  • using someone’s age as justification to undermine, deceive, or control them

Ageism can also lead to abuse. The WHO reports that in 2017, a review found that 1 in 6 people over the age of 60 experienced some form of elder abuse, which can include emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse.

According to a 2019 systematic review, ageism is widespread in healthcare around the world. It affects every aspect of healthcare, from diagnosis to prognosis. It also influences healthcare policies and workplace culture.

Infantilizing patients

A common way that benevolent ageism manifests in healthcare is through baby talk, which involves talking to older adults using the oversimplified language, terms of endearment, or rhythmic tone of voice a person might use for a child. A 2021 study refers to this as “elderspeak.”

While people often use elderspeak in an attempt to communicate more effectively with older adults, it is patronizing and can reinforce unequal power dynamics between caregivers and people they care for. Previous research also suggests it can create barriers, increasing resistance to care in people who have dementia.

Inaccurate perception of aging

A 2017 study cites a lack of knowledge about aging as one of the reasons ageism exists in healthcare. For example, older studies have found that doctors are less likely to refer older people with suicidal thoughts for mental health treatment, based on the idea that this is a “logical” experience in older age. This can have serious consequences.

Inaccurate ideas about aging can also lead to inappropriate medical care. For example, assuming that an older patient is less independent than they really are can result in the unnecessary use of diapers or bed rest. This ultimately makes people more dependent on others.

Less care, attention, and treatment

The 2017 study also notes that attitudes towards aging can contribute to healthcare staff spending less time with older patients. For example, research has found that ageism was associated with shorter, less effective, and more superficial communication from nurses.

The study’s report on social workers in healthcare settings found they spent less time with older people who have cancer compared with younger people. It also found that doctors are less patient, less respectful, and less involved with the care of older people. This results in unfair differences in treatment not based on medical needs.

Lower levels of health

In addition to how healthcare teams treat people, a person’s own views about age may impact their health. Longitudinal studies of younger adults have found that ageist beliefs were associated with higher rates of certain diseases as they aged. Cardiovascular disease, memory impairment, and lower will to live were all higher in this group.

(Video) Ageism: Explained

This may be because people who have ageist beliefs are less likely to look after their health or maintain habits that reduce the risk of illness in later life.

Coercion and violence

Both young and older people may face coercion or violence in healthcare due to the perception that their feelings do not matter. Staff may treat them with less compassion or force them to undergo procedures.

Until 2010, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) endorsed the practice of controlling children in the dentist chair by using a technique known as the hand over mouth exercise (HOME). This involves a dentist placing their hand over the child’s mouth when they are scared or anxious in order to physically restrain them.

Shortly after the AAPD banned this practice, 50% of dentists still felt it was acceptable. However, there are nonphysical ways of managing patients with dental anxiety, which dentists regularly use for children and adults. This suggests a difference in attitudes based on age.

(Video) Ageism in the Health Care System

Ageism does not only affect individuals — it has far-reaching consequences. These include:

  • Higher rates of illness: Ageism reduces people’s physical and mental health, increasing their care needs and reducing quality of life as they get older. It is also associated with risk-taking behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and an unhealthy diet.
  • Higher healthcare spending: According to the WHO, the United States spends billions of dollars per year treating health conditions due to ageism.
  • Poverty: Higher healthcare costs, as well as a lack of health insurance, exacerbates poverty. This can be especially difficult for people who are retired, who have lost their partner or spouse, or who cannot work due to disability or illness. Poverty also worsens health, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Lower life expectancy: Ageism is associated with earlier death, causing a decrease of 7.5 years on average.

The number of older adults in the U.S. is growing, making ageism an increasingly important issue.

The WHO states there are three ways to combat ageism:

  • education to dispel myths and stereotypes and raise awareness of the impact of ageism
  • intergenerational interventions, which create cooperation and empathy between age groups
  • law and policy changes, which can reduce inequity and discrimination

These efforts require commitment from governments and institutions, as they hold the most power to create change.

On an individual level, people can contribute to these efforts by being an ally. Allyship involves dedicating personal time and energy to taking action against ageism by:

  • Becoming aware of ageism: Reflect on how ageism shapes one’s own thoughts, feelings, and life experiences.
  • Learning about ageism: Learn how ageism affects others by listening to personal stories, reading books, and researching.
  • Developing skills: Learn about and practice advocacy skills, such as knowing when to speak up and when to step back.
  • Taking action: Put this knowledge into practice. Try correcting ageist stereotypes, challenging ageist jokes, or speaking out against ageist discrimination. Remember that this does not involve rescuing people, but supporting and advocating for them in situations where they are struggling to be heard.
(Video) How Ageism Negatively Affects Older People’s Health | TIME

Ageism is a systemic form of oppression against people of specific age groups. It affects older adults most severely but can also impact young people. It is based on prejudice, such as the idea that all older adults are unintelligent or uncooperative, or that young adults are not worth taking seriously.

Ageism is widespread in healthcare, which is especially harmful since older people are more likely to need medical care as they age. This leads to discrimination, lower quality care, and preventable illness and disability.

(Video) How Ageism Impacts Everyone

Because most people age, ageism is a form of inequity that affects everybody. Education, intergenerational understanding and cooperation, and policy change are necessary to end it.

Learn more about aging and health here.

FAQs

What is the impact of ageism on health healthcare? ›

Ageism has also led to inadequate or inappropriate care and decreased or delayed access to healthcare services, resulting in decreased survival, poorer quality of life, increased cognitive and functional impairment, and increased medication noncompliance, emergency visits and hospitalizations1.

What are some examples of ageism? ›

Examples of ageism

refusing to hire people over or under a certain age. asking for someone's age at a job interview when it is not relevant to the work. enacting policies that unfairly privilege one age group over another. viewing older people as out of touch, less productive, or stuck in their ways.

What is the impact of age on health? ›

Common health conditions associated with ageing

Common conditions in older age include hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors, back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression and dementia.

What does ageism mean in health and social care? ›

Age discrimination can be direct, which occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of their age. But discrimination can also occur indirectly, that is, when care is offered in such a way that older people are disadvantaged because they are disproportionately affected.

What is an example of ageism in healthcare? ›

In healthcare settings, ageism can be overt, for example, in plans that call for rationing medical care, such as specifying the treatment of younger adults before older adults as some hospitals did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the 3 types of ageism? ›

Ageism can operate both consciously (explicitly) and unconsciously (implicitly), and it can be expressed at three different levels: micro-level (individual), meso-level (social networks) and macro-level (institutional and cultural).

What causes ageism? ›

Individual factors. Individual factors that can contribute to ageist attitudes include a fear of death and anxiety around aging. Few people enjoy thinking about their own mortality. According to the terror management theory, ageist stereotypes and prejudice can act as psychic buffers.

How is ageism defined? ›

Ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age. Who does ageism affect? Ageism affects everyone.

How can we prevent ageism in healthcare? ›

Strategy to Eliminate Ageism

There are numerous key strategies health care professionals can use to mitigate ageism. These include adopting an individualized, person-centered treatment approach, defining non-ageist practices and attitudes, and acknowledging the need to eliminate ageism in practice.

What are the impacts of an Ageing population? ›

Societal aging can affect economic growth, patterns of work and retirement, the way that families function, the ability of governments and communities to provide adequate resources for older adults, and the prevalence of chronic disease and disability.

What are the 5 stages of aging? ›

The Following Are the Five Stages of Aging That Most Older Adults Experience
  1. Self-sufficiency. The first stage in the aging process is self-sufficiency. ...
  2. Interdependence. Eventually, your aging loved one will require some support and assistance. ...
  3. Dependence. ...
  4. Crisis Management. ...
  5. End of Life.
15 Jun 2021

How can we improve our health? ›

20 health tips for 2020
  1. Eat a healthy diet.
  2. Consume less salt and sugar.
  3. Reduce intake of harmful fats.
  4. Avoid harmful use of alcohol.
  5. Don't smoke.
  6. Be active.
  7. Check your blood pressure regularly.
  8. Get tested.
31 Dec 2019

Why is it important to reduce ageism? ›

Section navigation. Ageism affects how we think, feel and act towards others and ourselves based on age. It imposes powerful barriers to the development of good policies and programmes for older and younger people, and has profound negative consequences on older adults' health and well-being.

How common is ageism? ›

Recap. Ageism is very common. Both younger people and older people report experiencing age-based discrimination frequently, and an estimated 50% of the population holds biased attitudes towards older people.

How common is ageism in healthcare? ›

According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, one out of five older adults experiences ageism in health care settings and those who frequently experience it have a higher risk of developing a new disability or worsening existing ones.

What are the 2 types of age discrimination? ›

Two of the most common types of age discrimination are direct age discrimination and indirect age discrimination.

What's another word for ageism? ›

In this page you can discover 5 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for ageism, like: agism, discrimination, racial-discrimination, sexism and homophobia.

What is an example of ageism in the workplace? ›

Examples of Age Discrimination

A significant form of ageism includes the hiring process itself. Many job applications across industries often favor younger applicants, which could demotivate older workers from even applying. “They say things like 'digital native,' or they'll even just say 'young.

How do you identify ageism? ›

5 Signs of Age Discrimination
  1. Older workers are being fired or offered buyouts, and younger ones are being hired. ...
  2. You are reassigned to unpleasant duties. ...
  3. You start hearing tacky comments about your age. ...
  4. You stop getting raises. ...
  5. Your performance reviews tank.

Who is affected by age discrimination? ›

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

How do you use ageism in a sentence? ›

Ageism in a Sentence

1. After being fined for ageism, the company released a statement promising to end their discriminatory practices against older workers. 2. Ageism affects many of those over sixty since some judgemental people see older people as less valuable than what they were during their younger years.

What is the history of ageism? ›

The term ageism was coined in 1968 by Robert Butler—a Pulitzer Prize winning gerontologist who founded the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Butler described ageism as a process of systematic stereotyping and discrimination against people because they are old (Butler, 1969).

What are the elements of ageism? ›

Ageism is in this context defined as consisting of stereotypes (the cognitive component), prejudice (the affective component) and discrimination (the behavioral component) against older workers because of their chronological age or because being categorized as older workers.

What is ageism PDF? ›

word ageism to describe “prejudice by one age group against another age group” (Butler 1969, p.243). Butler argued that ageism represents discrimination by the. middle-aged group against the younger and older groups in society, because the. middle-aged group is responsible for the welfare of the younger and older age.

How can the elderly improve healthcare? ›

Recommendations
  1. Create An Adequately Prepared Workforce. ...
  2. Strengthen The Role Of Public Health. ...
  3. Remediate Disparities And Inequities. ...
  4. Develop New Approaches To Care Delivery. ...
  5. Allocate Resources To Palliative And End-Of-Life Care. ...
  6. Redesign Long-Term Services And Supports. ...
  7. Create An Adequately Prepared Workforce.

Does age affect access to healthcare? ›

As the age and diversity of our population increases, so does the potential for patients, including older adults, to experience barriers to health care access.

Is there ageism in medicine? ›

Ageism is defined as stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination against individuals on the basis of their age. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), 43% of all physicians and surgeons are 55 or older.

How can the impact of an ageing population be reduced? ›

Recommendations
  1. Design a strategy to support a healthy aging population. ...
  2. Strengthen the healthcare sector. ...
  3. Support caregivers. ...
  4. Modernize insurance and pension systems. ...
  5. Prepare the workforce. ...
  6. Encourage the silver economy. ...
  7. Strengthen the community of practice.
27 Sept 2021

What are the impacts of an aging population on the economy? ›

As an ageing society is characterised by declining labor productivity and rising price levels, the international competitiveness of the economy is declining. As a result, this society will export fewer goods and services and tend to import more instead. This will result in a decline in the current account balance.

What is ageing population? ›

Population Aging. Population aging refers to changes in the age composition of a population such that there is an increase in the proportion of older persons. Demographers use age/sex pyramids to illustrate the distribution of populations across all age groups.

What are the four types of aging? ›

Just because an individual falls into one or more of the four ageotypes — metabolic, immune, hepatic and nephrotic — doesn't mean that they're not also aging along the other biological pathways, Snyder said.

What are the symptoms of aging? ›

The seven signs of ageing
  • Fine lines and wrinkles. Fine lines, crow's feet and wrinkles are the most evident and often most concern-causing signs of ageing for men and women. ...
  • Dullness of skin. ...
  • Uneven skin tone. ...
  • Dry skin. ...
  • Blotchiness and age spots. ...
  • Rough skin texture. ...
  • Visible pores.
16 Sept 2016

How does aging happen? ›

No one knows how and why people change as they get older. Some theories claim that aging is caused by injuries from ultraviolet light over time, wear and tear on the body, or byproducts of metabolism. Other theories view aging as a predetermined process controlled by genes.

Why our health is important? ›

Having good health is directly related to leading a productive life. The functionality of the body is interconnected between various organs. Keeping the organs healthy is essential for proper functioning. As health is the state of physical, mental and social well-being, having good health is important.

Why good health is important? ›

Being healthy should be part of your overall lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent chronic diseases and long-term illnesses. Feeling good about yourself and taking care of your health are important for your self-esteem and self-image. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by doing what is right for your body.

Why is maintaining health important? ›

The importance of maintaining good health can't be stressed enough. A healthy body sets the stage for your day-to-day well-being and determines how well you'll age. It also allows you to live an active and more full life, which means you'll have a better quality of life as you age.

How can we prevent ageism in the workplace? ›

How to Avoid Age Discrimination in the Workplace
  1. Discrimination and Diversity Training. ...
  2. Put Policies in Place and Enforce Them. ...
  3. Reward Based on Performance, Not Tenure. ...
  4. Start in the Hiring/Interview Process. ...
  5. Don't Approach Layoffs Based on Age or Pay.

Why is ageism in the workplace? ›

Ageism in the workplace increases the challenges for a business that is trying to grow. Older workers often act as mentors for younger employees, teaching them the ins and outs of the position. When this occurs, employers are able to spend less time micromanaging their team and more time on tasks that grow a business.

What is ageism in the elderly? ›

Ageism and Aging are stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. The term was coined in 1971 by Robert Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.

What are the impacts of ageism? ›

Ageism has serious and wide-ranging consequences for people's health and well-being. Among older people, ageism is associated with poorer physical and mental health, increased social isolation and loneliness, greater financial insecurity, decreased quality of life and premature death.

What is ageism and how does it affect older adults? ›

This additional year brings new experiences and goals. However, how we think about our age and how others perceive that number can impact our health. Ageism refers to the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination towards oneself and others based on age. It affects everyone.

Why is it important to reduce ageism? ›

Section navigation. Ageism affects how we think, feel and act towards others and ourselves based on age. It imposes powerful barriers to the development of good policies and programmes for older and younger people, and has profound negative consequences on older adults' health and well-being.

What are the typical effects of ageism quizlet? ›

- Retirement, low income, lack of private pension, living alone, discrimination, ageism-effects: loneliness, social exclusion, poverty (likelihood of living in rented accommodation), marginalization, loss of power, loss of autonomy, lower quality of life, negative attitudes towards older people, rationing of care.

What causes ageism? ›

Individual factors. Individual factors that can contribute to ageist attitudes include a fear of death and anxiety around aging. Few people enjoy thinking about their own mortality. According to the terror management theory, ageist stereotypes and prejudice can act as psychic buffers.

How can we prevent ageism in healthcare? ›

Strategy to Eliminate Ageism

There are numerous key strategies health care professionals can use to mitigate ageism. These include adopting an individualized, person-centered treatment approach, defining non-ageist practices and attitudes, and acknowledging the need to eliminate ageism in practice.

How is ageism defined? ›

Ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age. Who does ageism affect? Ageism affects everyone.

How common is ageism? ›

Recap. Ageism is very common. Both younger people and older people report experiencing age-based discrimination frequently, and an estimated 50% of the population holds biased attitudes towards older people.

Where is ageism most common? ›

  1. 7 industries where ageism is most rampant. While it happens in all industries, there are specific sectors where ageism is more prevalent. ...
  2. Business and Finance. ...
  3. Technology. ...
  4. Marketing and advertisement. ...
  5. Hospitality industry. ...
  6. Retail industry. ...
  7. Healthcare industry. ...
  8. Energy.
23 Sept 2021

How do you identify ageism? ›

5 Signs of Age Discrimination
  1. Older workers are being fired or offered buyouts, and younger ones are being hired. ...
  2. You are reassigned to unpleasant duties. ...
  3. You start hearing tacky comments about your age. ...
  4. You stop getting raises. ...
  5. Your performance reviews tank.

How do you challenge ageism? ›

More videos on YouTube
  1. Make a friend who's older or younger than you are. ...
  2. Assess how you feel about your own aging. ...
  3. Stop using ageist language. ...
  4. Be open to perspectives from coworkers of all ages. ...
  5. Call out ageism in media, pop culture and advertising.
1 Jun 2019

What is ageism and how does it affect older adults quizlet? ›

Social participation by older adults is often discouraged by ageism, which is prejudice against others because of their age, especially prejudice against older adults.

What is ageism in sociology quizlet? ›

Ageism. Prejudice, discrimination, and hostility directed at people because of age. Life expectancy.

Videos

1. Ageism in Health: A guide to identifying age-related biases in preventative health
(Fullscript)
2. The Impacts of Ageism on Canadian Society, presented by AAG Calgary Chapter
(Alberta Association on Gerontology (AAG))
3. Ageism and its Consequences
(Myra Mahon Patient Resource Center)
4. How positive age beliefs support positive health outcomes with Becca R. Levy, PhD | Moving Medicine
(American Medical Association (AMA))
5. What is Ageism and how harmful is aging at every age?
(The Wrinkle)
6. Age doesn’t define you - Global Campaign to Combat Ageism - #AWorld4AllAges
(World Health Organization (WHO))

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