What is ageism?

woman at home

Ageism is discrimination or unfair treatment based on a person’s age. It can impact on someone’s confidence, job prospects, financial situation and quality of life.

It can also include the way that older people are represented in the media, which can have a wider impact on the public’s attitudes.

It’s important that ageism, often called age discrimination, is addressed to ensure that nobody loses out because of their age.

Perhaps you have been in a situation where you have been discriminated against due to your age. You may be fully aware that you have been subject to ageism, but sometimes it’s not so obvious.

Although ageism is often seen as a workplace issue, you may face it when you’re out shopping, at the doctor’s surgery, or even when ordering products and services over the phone.

Older people may experience...

  • Losing a job because of their age.
  • Being refused interest-free credit, a new credit card, car insurance or travel insurance because of their age.
  • Receiving a lower quality of service in a shop or restaurant because of the organisation’s attitude to older people.
  • Not being eligible for benefits such as Disability Living Allowance due to age limits.
  • Being refused a referral from a doctor to a consultant because you are ‘too old’.
  • Being refused membership to a club or trade association because of your age.

All of these situations are examples of ageism. You are protected against some of these situations by law, but not all of them.

Under the Equality Act, you are protected from ageism in employment, training and education, and also in membership of clubs and associations. Unfortunately, there is no protection in some areas, including housing, as yet. From 1 October 2012, you will have increased protection when you are receiving products and services, to ensure you aren’t treated unfairly.

For definitions of the different types of discrimination and the legal changes that are coming in, see The Equality Act - what it means for you.

For more information about what to do if you are affected by ageism at work, see Dealing with workplace disputes.

opens link in new window Download the guide Your rights at work (PDF 1,088 KB)

opens link in new window Download factsheet The law on age discrimination (PDF 205 KB)

We are grateful for the generous support of Dr Naim Dangoor CBE
and The Exilarch's Foundation

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Useful information to download

  • Factsheet about how to deal with problems at work, including information about the grievances procedure

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Useful website

  • The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) promotes opportunities and policies for older people.
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