Fast Facts – Ageism

Infographic_smallAgeism, also known as age discrimination, is characterized by unfair treatment based on a person’s age. It is perpetrated by television shows and movies, employers, organizations, and society as a whole. Ageism can impact someone’s confidence, job prospects, financial situation, and quality of life. Recently it has come into the spotlight as the topic of a nation-wide discussion.

Fact: everyone experiences ageism as we’ve all been young, and we all age. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to experience older age too, yet a stigma persists. Oftentimes, these older age stereotypes are internalized at a young age [i].

Age stigma can result in humiliation, anxiety, helplessness, loss of productivity, loss of self esteem, shorter life spans, depression, and fear of getting treatment.

Due to one’s age younger people may:

  • – Be physically assaulted. Corporal punishment is legal in 19 states (Supreme Court 1977) unless otherwise banned by a state [ii]
  • – Be misrepresented in politics because they cannot vote
  • – Be restricted by curfew laws
  • – Lack the right to choose what’s best for themselves because they are not “legally” adults
  • – Be treated as inferior to those older than them
  • – Be denied a job or insurance, or access to a private club


Under Debate: Should the drinking age be lowered? [iii]

Opponents of lowering the drinking age say that it would be medically irresponsible, as it can interfere with growth and development. Most Americans (77%) support the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21. Additionally, lowering the drinking age could give high-schoolers and even middle-schoolers easier access to alcohol. Opponents also argue that 21-year olds are more responsible than 18-year olds, and lowering the drinking age would increase the risk of teens doing other drugs as well.

Supporters for lowering the drinking age argue that if 18 year olds can join the military, fly a plane, hold public office, serve on juries, and sign contracts then they should be able to have a beer. While many believe changing the MLDA to 21+ saved 20,000 lives, it simply transferred the deaths to an older age bracket, as they argue that the deaths are most common among newly-legal drinkers, no matter the age. Also cited is an assumption that teens are going to find ways to drink even when the law says they can’t. It would be safer if they did so in a controlled and legal environment rather than in secret. Lowering the MLDA would additionally benefit the economy, diminish the thrill of breaking the law, and treat legal adults like actual adults.

What are your thoughts on lowering the minimum legal drinking age?

Society – Older People

  • – Words such as “elderly”, “senior citizen”, and “geezer” have negative connotations and perpetuate a belief that older people are less than
  • – Aging is viewed with doom, instead of in a positive light
  • – There is a fear that with older age comes physical and mental decline
  • – “Young people are just smarter” – Mark Zuckerberg, 2007 [iv]

Due to one’s age older people may [v]:

  • – Lose a job
  • – Be refused interest-free credit, a new credit card, car insurance, or travel insurance
  • – Receive a lower quality of service in a shop or restaurant because of the organization’s attitude towards older people
  • – Not be eligible for benefits such as Disability Living Allowance due to age limits
  • – Be refused a referral from a doctor to a consultant
  • – Be refused membership to a club or trade association

In the Workplace

  • – In 2004 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported having received almost 18,000 complaints filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment  Act [vi]
  • – 64% of workers say they have seen and/or experienced age discrimination in the workplace [vii]
  • – Older people are oftentimes the first to be laid off because of stereotypes that they are not as productive and don’t have as much potential as younger employees
  • – 58% of adults believe that age discrimination begins among workers in their 50’s [vii]
  • – Companies prefer to hire younger people over older people because of retirement anticipation, expensive health benefits, and higher salary expectations [viii]

In the Media

  • – Older people are often portrayed as helpless victims in movies and on TV
  • – Older people tend to be seen as either deteriorating, or bizarre and comical in films and shows
  • – Examples of movies that are defying ageism in media:
    • Up: Though portrayed as grumpy and disabled throughout the beginning of the movie, the older man, Carl, becomes a hero in the end, contradicting stereotypes around old age
    • The Intern: A 70-year old retired widower, Ben, decides to apply for an intern position at a fashion company. The young owner of the company, Jules, is skeptical of Ben because of his age and his inexperience with technology. He disproves her doubt with his wisdom, charm, and overall impact on the younger workers
  • – Products that “prevent aging” are abundant in magazines and commercials
  • – Despite older people making up 23% of readers, fashion magazines portray women over 40 sparingly, if at all [ix]
  • – Three in four adults over 55 feel dissatisfied with marketing aimed at them, and 71% say that advertising images largely do not reflect their lives [ix]


  • – The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects workers 40 and older from personnel decisions based solely on age in hiring, firing, layoffs, promotions, and demotions. The act applies to employers with at least 20 workers [vi]
  • – Under the Equality Act of 2010, older people are protected from ageism in employment, training and education, and in memberships of clubs and associations [ii]
  • – Older people still lack protection from bias and discrimination in many other areas, such as housing and in day-to-day life

[i] Dittmann, M. (2003, May). Fighting Ageism. American Psychological Association, 34, 5, Retrieved June 02, 2016, from

[ii] Farrell, Colin, Corporal Punishment, World Corporal Punishment Research, Accessed 6/13/16.

[iii]  Drinking Age. (2016, May 11). Retrieved June 14, 2016, from

[iv] Scheiber, N. (2014, March 23). The Brutal Ageism of Tech. The New Republic. Retrieved June 02, 2016, from

[v] Age U.K., What is ageism? (n.d.). Retrieved June 02, 2016, from

[vi]Brownell, P. (2014, April). Ageism in the Workplace. Encyclopedia of Social Work. Retrieved June 02, 2016, from

[vii] Fleck, C. (2014, May). Job Ageism and Labor Law Disputes in the Workplace. American Association for Retired Persons. Retrieved June 02, 2016, from

[viii]  James, S. D. (2009, March 10). Unemployment: Companies Cut Pricey Older Workers. ABC News. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from 

[ix] Milner, C., Van Norman, K., & Milner, J. (2012). Chapter IV. Global Population on Aging: Peril or Promise, World Economic Forum. Chapter 4,, pp 25-28. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from

Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.


Future Spotlight Topics:


June 2016 – Ageism

July 2016 – Facial Differences

August 2016 – Cancer

September 2016 – Caregivers

October 2016 – Learning Disabilities

November 2016 – PTSD

December 2016 – HIV