Older people in the UK are seen as incompetent, hostile or a burden on society, according to the findings of a new study into ageism.
Research from the Centre for Ageing Better has found that the UK’s attitudes to ageing are ‘overwhelmingly negative’ with older people subject to ‘a litany of damaging stereotypes’.
The report, which reviewed all existing research on attitudes to ageing, found that older workers are seen as having lower levels of performance, less ability to learn, and being costlier than younger workers.
In health and social care, the review found that stereotypes are even more negative, with attitudes focusing on death and physical decline, and ageing seen as a process of increasingly bad health.
The media is a key driver of negative attitudes, according to the charity, representing ageing as a crisis or a societal burden, with the ageing population described using metaphors like ‘grey tsunami’, ‘demographic cliff’ and ‘demographic timebomb’.
The research also showed these attitudes affect women and people from black and minority ethnic groups more because it adds to pre-existing prejudices.
‘Ageism, like any other form of prejudice, has a profound effect on our self-esteem, our wellbeing and the way we experience day-to-day life,’ said Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better.
‘Our new research shows that in spite of the progress we’ve made towards challenging discrimination in Britain, we still have an ingrained culture of pity, dislike and disassociation towards older people.
‘Most of us are living many years longer than previous generations and this is a gift to be celebrated. But the outdated and harmful attitudes laid bare in this research are preventing too many people from making the most of those extra years.
‘Ageism is deeply damaging, and yet all too often it isn’t taken as seriously as other forms of prejudice or discrimination. Britain is long overdue a fundamental culture shift to overturn these attitudes, and the media needs to reflect the diverse experiences of people in later life.’