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The pervasiveness of ageism in employment

March 22, 2019  · 2 min read

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ageism as “stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age.” Despite the global prevalence of ageism, its existence and widespread impacts on the health and functioning of older people are not often discussed. Instead, incidents of ageism are normalized by suggestions that older people should move out of the way and let others have a chance.

Ageism seems to be an especially accepted form of discrimination in the workplace, where older workers are often passed over in favour of “more relevant” counterparts. Recently, the Globe and Mail stated that “older employees are often passed over for promotion, discarded first in hard times or fobbed off with unfulfilling work.” This is troubling when taking into consideration that in the United Kingdom, “people aged 50 and over have made up nearly 80% of the total employment growth over the past decade.”

What is most frustrating about ageist rhetoric in employment is that despite what we are led to believe, older people are neither a threat to others’ jobs nor a burden to employers and employees. Older people are simply experiencing increased longevity, wherein continuing to work is necessary for continued financial stability and/or for personal fulfilment. A recent Guardian article illustrates both instances, quoting two women who have continued to work past so-called “retirement age” out of want or need.

As illustrated in the Guardian article, ongoing employment becomes an even more worrying experience in older women who face workplace discrimination based on gender in addition to age. According to Entrepreneur, “résumés of older women get far fewer callbacks than both those of older men and younger applicants of either sex.”

Ageism in employment is indicative of a larger societal issue that marginalizes older people in various spaces. As a result of ageism, older people are “overlooked for employment, restricted from social services and stereotyped in the media, and excluded from their communities.” Contact ageism expert Dr Liat Ayalon to discuss the positive impacts of combating ageism.

Combating ageism is pertinent to ensuring that older people live happy, healthy lives. The need to recognize ageism as a legitimate form of discrimination is a topic that will be discussed at the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing in November 2020. If you are interested in submitting abstracts under this theme visit the new conference website to learn more.

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