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February 18, 2020

Ageism: a prejudice against our own future selves

Ageism is discrimination based on age. Any age. It can and does affect us all, at numerous points in our lives.

People often assume that ageism only affects older people, but in a global study The Perennials (carried out by Ipsos MORI), “three quarters of those aged 25-34 felt…discriminated against for being too young.”

In a further report by The Royal Society for Public Health (1) both younger and older participants said they “experienced plenty of ageist practices… (including) unpaid or underpaid work, and patronising comments in the workplace.”

It is this shared intergenerational experience of being treated unfairly that the second message of the Age Proud Leeds campaign addresses.

Age-based stereotypes are just as common and as harmful whether you’re younger or older. Older people may be stereotyped as incompetent, set in their ways or grumpy. Younger people get badged as lazy, reckless or disrespectful. As well as being unfair and inaccurate, these generalisations create mistrust, fear and distance between the generations. Instead of focusing on what we share, stereotypes such as these divide us.

According to a recent report Together in the 2020s by United for All Ages, “Britain is one of the most age-segregated countries in the world” and has led to divisions within our communities and across our country.”

As well as direct discrimination from others, a peculiar characteristic of ageism is that we do it to ourselves. These attitudes start young – “the majority of children display overwhelmingly negative attitudes to the notion of getting older” (1) – and become ingrained as we move through life. As we approach middle-age, we routinely distance ourselves from our ageing selves. Many people try to ‘pass’ for younger, and keep ageing at bay through whatever means – denial, ‘anti-ageing’ cream, hair-dye, cosmetic surgery, identifying with younger people rather than our contemporaries, believing that ageing can be prevented, outwitted – if we only live in the right way!

And to what end? As Ashton Applewhite explains (2)

“It doesn’t make much sense to discriminate against a group that we aspire to join… Ageism is a prejudice against our own future selves… and takes root in denial of the fact that we’re going to get old. That we are ageing.”

We call upon all Leeds citizens – younger, middle-aged and older – to unite against ageism, challenge age-based stereotypes and change negative attitudes to ageing.

Join the campaign.
Join Age Proud Leeds.
Be Proud!