The Everyday Ageism Project

The Everyday Ageism Project aims to capture people’s everyday experiences of ageism. Research by EURAGE shows that across the European region, ageism is the most commonly experienced form of prejudice, yet relatively little is known about how it is experienced, who experiences it and the situations which may leave people vulnerable to age discrimination.

By providing a safe forum for people to anonymously share their experiences, the project aims to understand the consequences of ageism and the ways that age discrimination can affect people’s everyday lives. We also wish to encourage people to share their stories to show that ageism does exist and that it is a valid problem worth discussing.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Commentary on the Working Late Project

by Hayley O’Keeffe @HayleyOKeeffe92

The Working Late project funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Programme aims to investigate the practice and policy issues associated with working later on in life. The project was initiated in response to the growing number of people required to work for longer due to changes in state pension ages and the abolition of the default retirement age.  It aims to understand how best to promote healthy ageing and quality of working life across the life course.

One of the barriers that older workers face is age discrimination. For part of the project Ricardo Twumasi from Loughborough University, interviewed several managers who didn’t employ older workers, a reconstruction of interesting quotes from these interviews can be viewed here: 

The video highlights some of the issues many older people are facing today within the labour market, either trying to remain or become employed. The employee talks about the recruitment process within the company he works for and gives an insight into his and the company’s attitudes towards older workers. The employee immediately makes clear that he perceives that there is a “required” or “suitable” age, between 25-35 years, for his job and jobs like it, implying that those outside of this age range are deemed ‘unsuitable’. Making assumptions about a persons’ ability to do a job based on their age or the age group they belong to can lead to age discrimination. Age discrimination is any prejudicial treatment or denial of rights based on age.  The employee even acknowledges that these practices are wide-spread, stating that people generally “are just discriminating” when it comes to employment. Throughout the interview, this perception that ‘everyone’s doing it’ is used to justify his age-based assumptions and ageist practices.

Although the employee acknowledges age discrimination is wide-spread, he also realises that to appear ageist is undesirable. For instance, he maintains that he and his company are not ageist. The employee goes on to reveal the many different tactical and strategic ways that the company can avoid having to interview and select older candidates. For instance, he states that the company posts their job advertisements on graduate websites or LinkedIn (a website primarily used by graduates looking for employment). This is indirect ageism because it immediately disadvantages some age groups by making the position inaccessible to those who are not graduates, which disadvantages older workers. 

Stereotypes are a central component of prejudice and discrimination. Stereotypes are widely help assumptions about a person based on the group they belong to. This video sheds some light on common misconceptions of ‘older’ workers beyond 35 years. Firstly, the employee even uses the term “elderly” to describe those above the age of 35. By describing people above 35 in such a way, the employee is assigning stereotypes about the elderly to much younger people. This “elderly” age group is categorised as “unwilling to learn”, this is one of the most common and well-evidenced misconceptions about ‘older’ workers that disadvantage them against younger workers.

In sum, the interviewee in this video is an example of someone who despite claiming “I’m not being ageist” holds stereotypes about certain age groups, which informs his evaluation of people’s ability to do his job.  This video demonstrates how age-based assumptions are made and how they disadvantage older workers. It provides evidence that some jobs and professions have a perceived ‘correct age’. It uncovers covert ageist processes in recruitment which disadvantage older workers and potentially lead to inequality. This video demonstrates that ageism is unfortunately still deemed ‘acceptable’ in society. Despite anti-discriminatory laws, the Working Late project shows that ageism is still occurring both directly and indirectly in the work place. More needs to be done to tackle the issues of ageism in order to provide truly equal opportunities for all.

If you have experienced ageism then tell us all about it! 

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