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Ageism (also spelled "agism") is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic.[1][2] The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.[3] Butler defined "ageism" as a combination of three connected elements. Among them were prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about elderly people.[4]

While the term has also been used to describe prejudice and discrimination against adolescents and children, including ignoring their ideas because they are too young, or assuming that they should behave in certain ways because of their age,[5] the term is predominantly used in relation to the treatment of older people. Moreover, it has been pointed out that stigmatization does not only occur outside of the cohesively imagined group of the elderly but likewise takes place within the stigmatized group itself.[6]

Distinction from other age-related bias

Ageism in common parlance and age studies usually refers to negative discriminatory practices against old people, people in their middle years, teenagers and children. There are several forms of age-related bias. Adultism is a predisposition towards adults, which is seen as biased against children, youth, and all young people who are not addressed or viewed as adults.[7] Jeunism is the discrimination against older people in favor of younger ones. This includes political candidacies, jobs, and cultural settings where the supposed greater vitality and/or physical beauty of youth is more appreciated than the supposed greater moral and/or intellectual rigor of adulthood. Adultcentricism is the "exaggerated egocentrism of adults."[8] Adultocracy is the social convention which defines "maturity" and "immaturity," placing adults in a dominant position over young people, both theoretically and practically.[9] Gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population.[10] Chronocentrism is primarily the belief that a certain state of humanity is superior to all previous and/or future times.[11]

Based on a conceptual analysis of ageism, a new definition of ageism was introduced by Iversen, Larsen, & Solem in 2009. This definition constitutes the foundation for higher reliability and validity in future research about ageism and its complexity offers a new way of systemizing theories on ageism: "Ageism is defined as negative or positive stereotypes, prejudice and/or discrimination against (or to the advantage of) elderly people on the basis of their chronological age or on the basis of a perception of them as being 'old' or 'elderly'. Ageism can be implicit or explicit and can be expressed on a micro-, meso- or macro-level" (Iversen, Larsen & Solem, 2009).[12]

Other conditions of fear or aversion associated with age groups have their own names, particularly: paedophobia, the fear of infants and children; ephebiphobia, the fear of youth,[13] sometimes also referred to as an irrational fear of adolescents or a prejudice against teenagers;[14] and gerontophobia, the fear of elderly people.[15]

Implicit ageism

Implicit ageism is the term used to refer to the implicit or subconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors one has about older or younger people. These may be a mixture of positive and negative thoughts and feelings, but gerontologist Becca Levy reports that they "tend to be mostly negative."[16]

Ageist stereotyping

Ageist stereotyping is a tool of cognition which involves categorizing into groups and attributing characteristics to these groups. Stereotypes are necessary for processing huge volumes of information which would otherwise overload a person, and they are often based on a "grain of truth" (for example, the association between aging and ill health). However, they cause harm when the content of the stereotype is incorrect with respect to most of the group or where a stereotype is so strongly held that it overrides evidence which shows that an individual does not conform to it. For example, age-based stereotypes prime one to draw very different conclusions when one sees an older and a younger adult with, say, back pain or a limp. One might well assume that the younger person's condition is temporary and treatable, following an accident, while the older person's condition is chronic and less susceptible to intervention. On average, this might be true, but plenty of older people have accidents and recover quickly and very young people (such as infants, toddlers and small children) can become permanently disabled in the same situation. This assumption may have no consequence if one makes it in the blink of an eye as one is passing someone in the street, but if it is held by a health professional offering treatment or managers thinking about occupational health, it could inappropriately influence their actions and lead to age-related discrimination. Managers have been accused, by Erdman Palmore, as stereotyping older workers as being resistant to change, not creative, cautious, slow to make judgments, lower in physical capacity, uninterested in technological change, and difficult to train.[17] Another example is when people are rude to children because of their high pitched voice, even if they are kind and courteous. A review of the research literature related to age stereotypes in the workplace was recently published in the Journal of Management.[18]

Contrary to common and more obvious forms of stereotyping, such as racism and sexism, ageism is more resistant to change. For instance, if a child believes in an ageist idea against the elderly, fewer people correct them, and, as a result, individuals grow up believing in ageist ideas, even elders themselves.[19] In other words, ageism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ageist beliefs against the elderly is common place in today's society. For example, an older person who forgets something could be quick to call it a "senior moment," failing to realize the ageism of that statement. People also often say ageist phrases such as "dirty old man" or "second childhood," and elders sometimes miss the ageist undertones.[19]

In a classic study, researchers analyzed the effects of ageism among the elderly.[20] They performed memory tests on the three selected groups: residents of China, deaf North Americans, and hearing North Americans. In the three groups, the Chinese residents were presumably the least exposed to ageism, with lifelong experience in a culture that traditionally venerates older generations. Lifelong deaf North Americans also faced less exposure to ageism in contrast to those with typical hearing, who presumably had heard ageist comments their whole life. The results of the memory tests showed that ageism has significant effects on memory.

The gap in the scores between the young and old North Americans with normal hearing were double those of the deaf North Americans and five times wider than those of the Chinese participants. The results show that ageism undermines ability through its self-fulfilling nature.[19]

On the other hand, when elders show larger independence and control in their lives, defying ageist assumptions, they are more likely to be healthier, both mentally and physically, than other people their age.[19]

Ageist prejudice

Ageist prejudice is a type of emotion which is often linked to the cognitive process of stereotyping. It can involve the expression of derogatory attitudes, which may then lead to the use of discriminatory behavior. Where older or younger contestants were rejected in the belief that they were poor performers, this could well be the result of stereotyping. But older people were also voted for at the stage in the game where it made sense to target the best performers. This can only be explained by a subconscious emotional reaction to older people; in this case, the prejudice took the form of distaste and a desire to exclude oneself from the company of older people.[21]

Benevolent prejudice

Stereotyping and prejudice against different groups in society does not take the same form. Age-based prejudice and stereotyping usually involves older or younger people being pitied, marginalized, or patronized. This is described as "benevolent prejudice" because the tendency to pity is linked to seeing older or younger people as "friendly" but "incompetent." This is similar to the prejudice most often directed against women and disabled people. Age Concern's survey revealed strong evidence of "benevolent prejudice." 48% said that over-70s are viewed as friendly (compared to 27% who said the same about under-30s). Meanwhile, only 26% believe over-70s are viewed as capable (with 41% saying the same about under-30s).[22]

The figure for friendliness of under-30s is, conversely, an example of Hostile Prejudice.

Hostile prejudice

"Hostile prejudice" based on hatred, fear, aversion, or threat often characterizes attitudes linked to race, religion, disability, and sex. An example of hostile prejudice toward youth is the presumption without any evidence that a given crime was committed by a young person. Rhetoric regarding intergenerational competition can be motivated by politics. Violence against vulnerable older people can be motivated by subconscious hostility or fear; within families, this involves impatience and lack of understanding. Equality campaigners are often wary of drawing comparisons between different forms of inequality.

The impact of "benevolent" and "hostile" prejudice tends to be different. The warmth felt towards older or younger people and the knowledge that many have no access to paid employment means there is often public acceptance that they are deserving of preferential treatment—for example, less expensive movie and bus fares. But the perception of incompetence means older and younger people can be seen as "not up to the job" or "a menace on the roads," when there is little or exaggerated evidence to support this. Prejudice also leads to assumptions that it is "natural" for older or younger people to have lower expectations, reduced choice and control, and less account taken of their views.

Digital Ageism

Digital ageism refers to the prejudices faced by older adults in the digital world. A few examples of the subtle ways in which digital ageism operates in cultural representations, research, and everyday life: Generational segregation naturalizes youth as digitally adept and the old as digital dunces. Many cultural representations have long histories reproducing images of the life cycle as a mountain, where we peak in middle age then decline.[23][24][25] Older adults’ experiences are often excluded from research agendas on digital media, and ageism is ensconced within disciplines such as mass communication studies. For example, in a media diffusionist perspective,[26] the practices of seniors are depicted as either negligible or as lagging, and the equation of diffusion with individual ownership can hide practical ‘work-arounds’ such as cell phone sharing or missed calls used by older couples on fixed incomes.[27][28] Ageism is also inadvertently embedded in the ways that we generate statistics, for example through data collected based on large age categories (e.g., '60+') foisting anyone over 60 into ‘the grey zone’ which obscures differences.[29]


Age discrimination refers to the actions taken to deny or limit opportunities to people on the basis of age. These are usually actions taken as a result of one's ageist beliefs and attitudes. Age discrimination occurs on both a personal and institutional level.[2]

On a personal level, an older person may be told that he or she is too old to engage in certain physical activities, like an informal game of basketball between friends and family. A younger person may be told they are too young to get a job or help move the dining room table. On an institutional level, there are policies and regulations in place that limit opportunities to people of certain ages and deny them to all others. The law, for instance, requires that all people must be at least 16 years old in order to obtain a driver's license in the United States. There are also government regulations that determine when a worker may retire. Currently, in the US, a worker must be between 65 and 67 years old (depending upon his birth year) before becoming eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits (age 62 for 70% benefits) but some company pension plans begin benefits at earlier ages.

A 2006/2007 survey done by the Children's Rights Alliance for England and the National Children's Bureau asked 4,060 children and young people whether they have ever been treated unfairly based on various criteria (race, age, sex, sexual orientation, etc.). A total of 43% of British youth surveyed reported experiencing discrimination based on their age, far eclipsing other categories of discrimination like sex (27%), race (11%), or sexual orientation (6%).[30] Consistently, a study based on the European Social Survey found that whereas 35% of Europeans reported exposure ageism, only 25% reported exposure to sexism and as few as 17% reported exposure to racism.[31]

Ageism has significant effects in two particular sectors: employment and health care.


The concept of ageism was originally developed to refer to prejudice and discrimination against older people and middle age, but has expanded to include children and teenagers.[22] Like racial and gender discrimination, age discrimination, at least when it affects younger workers, can result in unequal pay for equal work. Unlike racial and gender discrimination, however, age discrimination in wages is often enshrined in law. For example, in both the United States[32] and the United Kingdom[33] minimum wage laws allow for employers to pay lower wages to young workers. Many state and local minimum wage laws mirror such an -based, tiered minimum wage. Midlife workers, on average, make more than younger workers do, which reflects educational achievement and experience of various kinds (job-specific, industry-specific, etc.). The age-wage peak in the United States, according to Census data, is between 45 and 54 years of age. Seniority in general accords with respect as people age, lessening ageism. Statistical discrimination refers to limiting the employment opportunities of an individual based on stereotypes of a group to which the person belongs. Limited employment opportunities could come in the form of lower pay for equal work or jobs with little social mobility. Younger female workers were historically discriminated against, in comparison with younger men, because it was expected that, as young women of childbearing years, they would need to leave the work force permanently or periodically to have children.[34] Labor regulations also limit the age at which people are allowed to work and how many hours and under what conditions they may work. In the United States, a person must generally be at least 14 years old to seek a job, and workers face additional restrictions on their work activities until they reach age 16.[35] Many companies refuse to hire workers younger than 18. While older workers benefit more often from higher wages than do younger workers, they face barriers in promotions and hiring. Employers also encourage early retirement or layoffs disproportionately more for older or more experienced workers.

Some political offices have qualifications that discriminate on the basis of age as a proxy for experience, education, or accumulated wisdom. For example, the President of the United States must be at least 35 years old; a United States Senator must be at least 30; and a United States Congressman must be at least 25. In the UK, age discrimination against older people has been prohibited in employment since 2006. Since then, the number of age discrimination cases rose dramatically. The laws protect the anyone over the age of 16 who is young as well as old. There were over 6,800 claims submitted to the Employment Tribunal in 2010/11 compared with just 900 in 2006/2007 (immediately after the Regulations came in force).[36] However, the figures for 2011/2012 show a 47% fall in the number of claims, and commentators have suggested that the repeal of the Default Retirement Age may be the reason behind this.

Age discrimination in hiring has been shown to exist in the United States. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's first complainants were female flight attendants complaining of (among other things) age discrimination.[37] In 1968, the EEOC declared age restrictions on flight attendants’ employment to be illegal sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[38] However, Joanna Lahey, professor at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, found recently that firms are more than 40% more likely to interview a young adult job applicant than an older job applicant.[39] All states in the US prohibit youth under 14 from working with a handful of exceptions, and prohibit youth under 18 from working in hazardous occupations. They are also paid a lower minimum wage and not allowed to work full-time.

Also in Europe, pervasive levels of age discrimination are found in Belgium, England, France, Spain and Sweden. Job candidates revealing older age are found to get 39% (in Belgium) to 72% (in France) less job interview invitations compared to equal candidates revealing a younger name.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46] In addition, In a survey for the University of Kent, England, 29% of respondents stated that they had suffered from age discrimination. This is a higher proportion than for gender or racial discrimination. Dominic Abrams, social psychology professor at the university, concluded that Ageism is the most pervasive form of prejudice experienced in the UK population.[47] Discrimination is found to be heterogeneous by the activity older candidates undertook during their additional post-educational years. In Belgium, they are only discriminated if they have more years of inactivity or irrelevant employment.[40]

According to Dr. Robert M. McCann, an associate professor of management communication at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, denigrating older workers, even if only subtly, can have an outsized negative impact on employee productivity and corporate profits. For American corporations, age discrimination can lead to significant expenses. In Fiscal Year 2006, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received nearly 17,000 charges of age discrimination, resolving more than 14,000 and recovering $51.5 million in monetary benefits. Costs from lawsuit settlements and judgments can run into the millions, most notably with the $250 million paid by the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) under a settlement agreement in 2003.[48][49]


Ageism in Hollywood, specifically in terms of women, is profound, from the way youth is praised to the lack of jobs for older actresses. The way youth is praised reflects directly on the way older women are presented in the media. President and CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, O. Burtch Drake, spoke in terms of older women's representation throughout the media stating "older women are not being portrayed at all; there is no imagery to worry about."[50] Women over fifty are not the center of attention and if an actress is older they are expected to act anything but their age.[51] These same women who have been acting since their teenage years, who have always been told to act their age, now must change the dynamic of their job by not acting their age when they get to be considered old by society and the media. The standards set in film are fixated upon youth - sexuality, beauty, physicality. Movies that portray women acting their own age (i.e. a 50-year-old acting 50 years old) seems exaggerated and unrealistic because it does not fit the norms associated with women in film and media.[51] Women are forced to feel that they must continuously improve upon their looks to be seen and they can be replaced by a younger model of themselves. "Silver ceiling" references the new type of ceiling older workers in the entertainment industry, especially women, are being faced with. Underemployment of older actresses surpasses that of older actors because of the typical pairing of older actors with younger actresses in films.[52] BBC news anchor, Nigel Kay, found in a survey that "on television older men significantly outnumber older women by about 70 percent to 30 percent."[50] An issue amongst older women is that their voices are not being heard, which is especially true for older actresses in Hollywood. The issues about employment they are bringing to light as well as the complaints they have are not being taken seriously and they are being excluded from conversations about Hollywood and employment.[53]

Because of the limited ages the film industry portrays and the lack of older actresses, society as a whole has a type of illiteracy about sexuality and those of old age. There is an almost inherent bias about what older women are capable of, what they do, and how they feel.[54] Amongst all ages of actresses there is the attempt to look youthful and fitting to the beauty standards by altering themselves physically, many times under the hands of plastic surgeons.[51] Women become frightful of what they will be seen as if they have wrinkles, cellulite, or any other signifier of aging.[52] As women reach their forties and fifties, pressure to adhere to societal beauty norms seen amongst films and media intensifies in terms of new cosmetic procedures and products that will maintain a "forever youthful" look.[52] In terms of sexuality, older women are seen as unattractive, bitter, unhappy, unsuccessful in films. With older women not being represented in the media and film industries, specifically in Hollywood, thoughts of underachievement, ugliness, and disgust crowd the thoughts of older women as they fail to meet beauty norms. This can cause depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues in general.[52] "In one survey, women reported feeling more embarrassed about their age than by their masturbation practices or same-gender sexual encounters."[52] Women are forced to feel that they must continuously improve upon their looks to be seen and they can be replaced by a younger model of themselves.

The ideal that younger actresses are better than older actresses in Hollywood can be seen by the preferences of the people who are watching movies. Movie spectators display discrimination against older women in Hollywood. A study between 1926-1999 proved that older men in Hollywood had more leading roles than women who were the same age as them.[55] There are many cases where leading actors play the attractive love interest for longer than women.[52] This portrayal of women never aging but men aging can have a negative affect on not only actresses in Hollywood but also women who are not in the media.[52] There are fewer older actresses that get leading roles than young actresses, this promotes the idea that women do not age and that older women are less attractive. This can be harmful to women because they will strive for something that is impossible to have, eternal youth.[52]

What some people think of as old other people may not. An actress in Hollywood may not consider herself old but can be told she is too old for a part. A very well known example of this is what happened to the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, "she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."[56] When a woman is told she is old she can start to believe that she is. A woman can start acting as if she is older than she believes because she internalizes what other people are saying and what they think about her.[57]

In film the female body is depicted in different states of dress, and portrayed differently depending on the age of the actress. Their clothing is used as an identity marker of the character. Young women are put into revealing and sexy costumes whereas older women often play the part of a mother or grandmother clad in appropriate attire. This can include a bonnet or apron as she carries about her matronly duties.[58] This can lead both men and women to perceive the female body in a certain way based on what is seen on screen. Annette Kuhn said twenty years ago that "One of the major theoretical contributions of the women's movement has been its insistence on the significance of cultural factors, in particular in the form of socially dominant representations of women and the ideological character of such representation, both in constituting the category 'woman' and in delimiting and defining what has been called the 'sex-gender system'"[58] Women's bodies are often seen as an object to be looked at and desired by men. As women get older and enter their post-menopausal years, they no longer are examples of the ideal feminine model. Added to that is the idea that females become mentally unstable as they enter their older years. "They become quarrelsome, vexatious and overbearing, petty and stingy; that is to say they exhibit typically sadistic and anal-erotic traits that they did not possess earlier...(Freud 1958,323-24)"[58] Ageism is not new to Hollywood and has been around since the time of silent films. When transitioning from silent movies to talking motion pictures, Charlie Chaplin (a well known silent movie actor) said in an interview that "It's beauty that matters in pictures-nothing else....Pictures! Lovely looking girls...What if the girls can't act?...Certainly I prefer to see, say, Dolores Costello [a 1920s silent movie star], in a thin tale than some aged actress of the stage (Walker 1979,132)".[58]


There is considerable evidence of discrimination against the elderly in health care.[59][60][61] This is particularly true for aspects of the physician-patient interaction, such as screening procedures, information exchanges, and treatment decisions. In the patient-physician interaction, physicians and other health care providers may hold attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are associated with ageism against older patients. Studies have found that some physicians do not seem to show any care or concern toward treating the medical problems of older people. Then, when actually interacting with these older patients on the job, the doctors sometimes view them with disgust and describe them in negative ways, such as "depressing" or "crazy."[62] For screening procedures, elderly people are less likely than younger people to be screened for cancers and, due to the lack of this preventative measure, less likely to be diagnosed at early stages of their conditions.[63]

After being diagnosed with a disease that may be potentially curable, older people are further discriminated against. Though there may be surgeries or operations with high survival rates that might cure their condition, older patients are less likely than younger patients to receive all the necessary treatments. For example, health professionals pursue less aggressive treatment options in older patients,[64] and fewer adults are enrolled in tests of new prescription drugs.[65] It has been posited that this is because doctors fear their older patients are not physically strong enough to tolerate the curative treatments and are more likely to have complications during surgery that may end in death.

Other research studies have been done with patients with heart disease, and, in these cases, the older patients were still less likely to receive further tests or treatments, independent of the severity of their health problems. Thus, the approach to the treatment of older people is concentrated on managing the disease rather than preventing or curing it. This is based on the stereotype that it is the natural process of aging for the quality of health to decrease, and, therefore, there is no point in attempting to prevent the inevitable decline of old age.[62][63]

Furthermore, caregivers further undermine the treatment of older patients by helping them too much, which decreases independence,[66] and by making a generalized assumption and treating all elderly as feeble.[19]

Differential medical treatment of elderly people can have significant effects on their health outcomes, a differential outcome which somehow escapes established protections

Effects of ageism

Ageism has significant effects on the elderly and young people. The stereotypes and infantilization of older and younger people by patronizing language affects older and younger people's self-esteem and behaviors. After repeatedly hearing a stereotype that older or younger people are useless, older and younger people may begin to feel like dependent, non-contributing members of society. They may start to perceive themselves in terms of the looking-glass self—that is, in the same ways that others in society see them. Studies have also specifically shown that when older and younger people hear these stereotypes about their supposed incompetence and uselessness, they perform worse on measures of competence and memory.[67] These stereotypes then become self-fulfilling prophecies. According to Becca Levy's Stereotype Embodiment Theory, older and younger people might also engage in self-stereotypes, taking their culture's age stereotypes—to which they have been exposed over the life course—and directing them inward toward themselves. Then this behavior reinforces the present stereotypes and treatment of the elderly.[16][62]

Many overcome these stereotypes and live the way they want, but it can be difficult to avoid deeply ingrained prejudice, especially if one has been exposed to ageist views in childhood or adolescence.


Australia has had age discrimination laws for some time.[68] Discrimination on the basis of age is illegal in each of the states and territories of Australia. At the national level, Australia is party to a number of international treaties and conventions that impose obligations to eliminate age discrimination.[69]

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 established the Australian Human Rights Commission and bestows on this Commission functions in relation to a number of international treaties and conventions that cover age discrimination.[69][70] During 1998-1999, 15% of complaints received by the Commission under the Act were about discrimination on the basis of age.[69]

Age discrimination laws at the national level were strengthened by the Age Discrimination Act 2004, which helps to ensure that people are not subjected to age discrimination in various areas of public life, including employment, the provision of goods and services, education, and the administration of Australian government laws and programs. The Act, however, does provide for exemptions in some areas, as well as providing for positive discrimination, that is, actions which assist people of a particular age who experience a disadvantage because of their age.[70]

In 2011, for the first time a position of Age Discrimination Commissioner was created within the Australian Human Rights Commission. The new Commissioner's responsibilities include raising awareness among employers about the beneficial contributions that senior Australians as well as younger employees can make in the workforce.[71]


In Canada, Article 718.2, clause (a)(i), of the Criminal Code defines as aggravating circumstances, among other situations, "evidence that the offence was motivated by ... age".[72][73]

Mandatory retirement was ended in Canada in December 2011,[74] but 74% of Canadians still consider age discrimination to be a problem.[75]


In November 2011, the Nigerian House of Representatives considered a bill which would outlaw age discrimination in employment.[76]


At least two bills has been filed before the 16th Congress of the Philippines seeking to address age discrimination in employment in the country. The Blas Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization, asserts that responsibilities of making livelihood in a household has shifted to younger members of the family due to bias against hiring people older than 30 years of age. The organization also added that age discrimination contributes to the unemployment rate and acts as a hurdle to inclusive growth in the country. Overseas Filipino Workers returning from abroad seeking to find work in the country were tagged as vulnerable to age discrimination.[77][78]

United States

In the U.S., each state has its own laws regarding age discrimination, and there are also federal laws.[79] In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act forbids unlawful discrimination against persons age 40 and older. The FEHA is the principal California statute prohibiting employment discrimination, covering employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, apprenticeship programs and/or any person or entity who aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces the doing of a discriminatory act. In addition to age, it prohibits employment discrimination based on race or color; religion; national origin or ancestry, disability, mental type or medical condition; marital status; sex or sexual orientation; and pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.[80] Although there are many protections for age-based discrimination against older workers (as shown above) there are less protections for younger workers.

The District of Columbia and twelve states define age as a specific motivation for hate crimes – California, Florida, Iowa, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York and Vermont.[81][82]

The federal government governs age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination based on age with respect to employees 40 years of age or older as well.[83] The ADEA also addresses the difficulty older workers face in obtaining new employment after being displaced from their jobs, arbitrary age limits.[84] The ADEA applies even if some of the minimum 20 employees are overseas and working for a US corporation.[85]

In September 2016, California passed state bill AB-1687, an anti-ageism law taking effect on January 1, 2017, requiring "commercial online entertainment employment" services that allow paid subscribers to submit information and resumes (such as IMDB Pro), to honor requests to have their ages and birthdays removed. The bill was supported by SAG-AFTRA's former and current presidents Ken Howard and Gabrielle Carteris, who felt that the law would help to reduce ageism in the entertainment industry.[86]

European Union

The European citizenship provides the right to protection from discrimination on the grounds of age. According to Article 21-1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union s:Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union#CHAPTER III. EQUALITY, "any discrimination based on any ground such as (…) age, shall be prohibited".[87]

Additional protection against age discrimination comes from the Framework Directive 2000/78/EC. It prohibits discrimination on grounds of age in the field of employment.[88]


On 18 August 2006, the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG) came into force. The aim of the AGG is to prevent and abolish discrimination on various grounds including age.[89]

A recent study suggested that youths in Germany feel the brunt of age discrimination.[90]


In France, Articles 225-1 through 225-4 of the Penal Code detail the penalization of Ageism, when it comes to an age discrimination related to the consumption of a good or service, to the exercise of an economic activity, to the labor market or an internship, except in the cases foreseen in Article 225-3.[91][92][93]


In Belgium, the Law of 25 February 2003 "tending to fight discrimination" punishes Ageism when "a difference of treatment that lacks objective and reasonable justification is directly based on ... age". Discrimination is forbidden when it refers to providing or offering a good or service, to conditions linked to work or employment, to the appointment or promotion of an employee, and yet to the access or participation in "an economic, social, cultural or political activity accessible to the public" (Article 2nd, § 4). Incitement to discrimination, to hatred or to violence against a person or a group on the grounds of (…) age (Article 6) is punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.[94][95] Nevertheless, employment opportunities are worsening for people in their middle years in many of these same countries, according to Martin Kohli et al. in Time for Retirement (1991).

United Kingdom

In the UK, laws against Ageism are new. Age discrimination laws were brought into force in October 2006,[96] and can now be found in the Equality Act 2010. This implements the Equal Treatment Framework Directive 2000/78/EC and protects employees against direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. There is also provision in the Equality Act 2010 to prohibit age discrimination in the provision of goods and services, though this has not yet been implemented by the current UK Coalition Government and will not be implemented before October 2012 at the earliest.[97]

Despite the relatively recent prohibition on age discrimination, there have already been many notable cases and official statistics show a 37% increase in claims in 2009/10[98] and a further 31% increase in 2010/11.[99] Examples include the case involving Rolls Royce,[100] the "Heyday" case brought by Age UK[101] and the recent Miriam O'Reilly case against the BBC.[102]

Recent research suggested that the number of age discrimination claims annually could reach 15,000 by 2015.[103]

The European Social Study survey in 2011 revealed that nearly two out of five people claim to have been shown a lack of respect because of their age. The survey suggested that the UK is riven by intergenerational splits, with half of people admitting they do not have a single friend over 70; this compares with only a third of Portuguese, Swiss and Germans who say that they do not have a friend of that age or older.[104] A Demos study in 2012 showed that three quarters of people in the UK believed there to be not enough opportunities for older and younger people to meet and work together.[105]

The "Grey Pride" campaign has been advocating for a Minister for Older People and its campaign has had some success, with Labour Leader Ed Miliband appointing Liz Kendall as Shadow Minister for Older People.[106]

The artist Michael Freedman, an outspoken advocate against age discrimination within the art world says that "mature students, like me, come to art late in life, so why are we penalised and demotivated? Whatever happened to lifelong learning and the notion of a flexible workforce?"[107]

Advocacy campaigns

Many current and historical intergenerational and youth programs have been created to address the issue of Ageism. Among the advocacy organizations created in the United Kingdom to challenge age discrimination are Age UK and the British Youth Council.

In the United States there have been several historic and current efforts to challenge Ageism. The earliest example may be the Newsboys Strike of 1899, which fought ageist employment practices targeted against youth by large newspaper syndicates in the Northeast. During the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was active in the national youth movement, including the formation of the National Youth Administration and the defense of the American Youth Congress. She made several statements on behalf of youth and against Ageism. In one report entitled, "Facing the Problems of Youth," Roosevelt said of youth,

"We cannot simply expect them to say, 'Our older people have had experience and they have proved to themselves certain things, therefore they are right.' That isn't the way the best kind of young people think. They want to experience for themselves. I find they are perfectly willing to talk to older people, but they don't want to talk to older people who are shocked by their ideas, nor do they want to talk to older people who are not realistic."[108]

Students for a Democratic Society formed in 1960 to promote democratic opportunities for all people regardless of age, and the Gray Panthers was formed in 1970 by Maggie Kuhn, with a goal of eliminating Ageism in all forms.[109] Three O'Clock Lobby formed in 1976 to promote youth participation throughout traditionally ageist government structures in Michigan, while Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor started in 1970 to promote youth and fight Ageism.

More recent U.S. programs include Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions, which formed in 1996 to advance the civil and human rights of young people through eliminating ageist laws targeted against young people, and to help youth counter Ageism in America.[110] The National Youth Rights Association started in 1998 to promote awareness of the legal and human rights of young people in the United States,[111] and the Freechild Project was formed in 2001 to identify, unify and promote diverse opportunities for youth engagement in social change by fighting Ageism.

Related campaigns

Accusations of ageism

In a recent interview, actor Pierce Brosnan cited ageism as one of the contributing factors as to why he was not asked to continue his role as James Bond in the Bond film Casino Royale, released in 2006.[116]

Also, successful singer and actress Madonna spoke out in her 50s about ageism and her fight to defy the norms of society.[117] In 2015, BBC Radio 1 were accused of ageism after the station didn't add her new single to their playlist. Similarly, Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall has also raised the issue of ageism.[118]

A 2007 Pew Research Center study found that a majority of American voters would be less likely to vote for a President past a given age, with only 45% saying that age would not matter.

See also


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External links

Look up Ageism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Further reading

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