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Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Age

Definitions and Resources

What is Ageism?

Ageism is a "process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people based on their age. Ageism is usually focused on two targets: young adults and older adults, but ageism can affect people of any age. Ageism stems from the social construction of ageing through the combination of a range of factors and is manifested in policy, personal values, and the experiences of older/younger people. . . . Ageism is rooted in thought patterns and implicit assumptions. It operates at intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional levels, for example in medicine, social services, and politics."

"It is easy to assume that ageism is a universal phenomenon, but in some cultures, older age may lead to a more valued status or it may not be seen as a source of status at all. However, in Western societies older age is often constructed as a social problem, resulting in loss of status and devalued identity. This has consequences in terms of older people's self-perception, how they are perceived by others, their exclusion from some social activities and relationships, and the approaches taken in policy and practice in health and social services. A number of factors contribute to ageism."

          Economic Older people are seen as unproductive.

          Cultural Youth is highly valued; in contrast, older age is associated with decline and decrepitude.

          Interpersonal Older people may be put at a distance and treated as 'other' in order to protect against fears about aging.

Harris, J., & White, V. (2013). A Dictionary of Social Work and Social Care. Oxford University Press.

Age, Aging, and Ageism: A Reading List

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