Britain is an ageist society characterised by intergenerational disputes. Despite “Age” featuring as one of the nine protected characteristic outlined by the Equalities Act of 2010, ageism is prevalent across the country. According to a recent RSPH report, negative attitudes towards age are prevalent across all age groups in Britain and these views start from a young age. Such viewpoints stem from negative portals in the media, a lack of regular contact between the generations, and age-based prejudice in the workplace. Respect for all older citizens is a pivotal to creating an Age-friendly London where everyone can feel included, regardless of their age.
Behaviour and Respect
An Age-friendly City will see all older citizens treated with respect and courtesy by a society that is aware and considerate of their needs. However, this is often not the case, with many reports of disrespectful behaviour logged throughout the UK. People are seen to be impatient with older people who are slower at performing tasks, for example at the supermarket, or when driving.
On the other hand, some older people report frustration with the patronising tone-of-voice used by service providers. This suggests that a fine line exists between benevolent and hostile ageism that age-friendly cities must help their citizens to navigate. This can occur through education on the topic of ageing as well as ensuring that depictions of older people in the media are accurate and respectful.
Ageism and Ignorance
British society tends to glorify youth within popular imagery, which causes age and ageing to be portrayed in a negative light. This leads to ageist biases forming within citizens’ minds, creating the farcical idea that older people are useless, stingy, and a burden. A frequent stereotype implies that older people hoard wealth and housing stock, whilst also accusing them of “bed blocking”.
The WHO Age-friendly Cities Guide suggests that such attitudes stem from a lack of interaction between the generations in big cities, as well as a general lack of public knowledge around ageing and ageism. In addition, the impersonal nature of large and growing cities can often lead to a lack of empathy, which reinforces discriminatory attitudes such as ageism.
An Age-friendly City must, therefore, organise and facilitate encounters between the generations, from employment opportunities, to events, to co-housing schemes. As public awareness about the ageing progress is so lacking, education around ageing should feature within schools. Meanwhile, older people’s organisations have a responsibility to inform all sections of society about the myriad opportunities available in later life as well as the important contributions that older citizens make.
As social engagement positively contributes to the perception of older people in society, we must also ensure that older Londoners are able to access employment and voluntary opportunities.
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