Age-Related Prejudice (AGEISM)

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are about 600 million seniors age 60 and over worldwide. By 2025 this number will double and by 2050 there will be two billion seniors all over the world. One of the major problems facing seniors is age-related prejudice (AGEISM) which the WHO defines as:

“Ageism is the stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age; ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs.”

Ageism has Harmful Effects on Health of Older Adults

The WHO also claims that ageism has harmful effects on the health of older adults. Research showed that older adults with negative attitudes about ageing may live 7.5 years less than those with positive attitudes. Ageism has also been shown to cause cardiovascular stress.

Ageism now Believed to be the Most Common Form of Prejudice

According to a study on ageism in Canada published May, 2019 in Ageing Research Reviews, ageism is now believed to be the most common form of prejudice and unfortunately the full impact of this is not fully recognized. The study was carried out by Donna M. Wilson and Gail Low, nursing professors from the University of Alberta. The researchers claim that today many societies are youth oriented and there is no respect or caring for the welfare of seniors.

Study Reviewed Questionnaires used by Researchers around the World

The researchers reviewed questionnaires used by researchers around the world to measure ageism. They discovered that 48-91% of all seniors had experienced ageism. Also, 50-98% of all younger people confessed to not only having discriminatory feelings but also prejudicial behavior toward seniors.

Prejudicial Beliefs about Seniors

Some of the false prejudiced beliefs about seniors were:

  • Seniors are a drain on society and unproductive. The reality is that one in five Canadian seniors over the age of 65 is still working and more than a third are active in volunteer work. See our blog post from October 3, 2018 about how more than 255,000 American seniors age 85 and older returned to the work force.
  • Seniors make up all the acute care hospital beds, but the fact is that only about 20% of the people hospitalized are seniors.
  • Most seniors live in nursing homes. In fact, only about 3% of Canadian seniors are chronically ill and need to be in long-term care.

The Impact of Internalized Ageism on Children

The impact of internalized ageism on children who see the lack of respect shown to seniors, is that they in turn will grow up believing that once they become 60-65 they will be useless and boring. They will not bother to exercise, do volunteer work or keep on working at a job. They will not go out any more to socialize and if they lose their spouse they will not try to find a new one, believing that they will be next.


The researchers believe that awareness of this serious, overlooked problem is the first step to combat ageism. They would also like to see anti-ageism legislation similar to the UK’s Equality Act. The United States, which has one of the highest rates of people in the work force older than 65 years, has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws such as the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act that prohibits employment discrimination against people aged 40 years and older.

The researchers also cite the behavior of indigenous people and cultures who have great respect for their elders.

Quiz to Test for Ageism by the World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled a short quiz for people to take to discover if they have prejudicial thoughts on ageism.

Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care

If you or your loved one are in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care, be sure to choose a facility like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York that offers expert care at the hands of a warm and caring staff.


We should all join hands to raise awareness of ageism and unfair prejudice against seniors.

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