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Older woman living in poverty in Bangladesh

All over the world, older people experience discrimination and abuse, just because of their age. 

Defining ageism

Ageism is the practice of discriminating against a person because of their age.

In most countries, it is still considered acceptable to deny people work; access to healthcare; education; or the right to participate in government, purely because of their age.

Around the world, older people are all-too-ften often regarded as:

  • Victims of declining mental and physical capacity
  • ‘Has-beens’ with no aspirations for the future
  • Threats to the opportunities of younger people

Even where racism and sexism are declining, evidence of ageism is increasing. There is good reason to believe that ageism holds back more older women and men in the world from living well and with dignity than any other single factor.

Inequality has a significant impact on the ability of countries to develop and progress. If we do not address inequality at all ages, we risk leaving millions behind.

In their own words: examples of age discrimination

Eusebio struggles to be picked for farming jobs 
Pictured: Eusebio says: "I'm a proud man and it's difficult to hear people laughing and saying I should go home because the work is too hard for an old person"

Eusebio is 71. He has farmed the same patch of land all of his life - but he is not the owner of the land. Now, he finds it increasingly difficult to get picked for farming jobs.

"Every morning I get up at about 5am and go out with the other men from the village to find bosses who are employing labourers for the day. The boss will often say I’m too old and pick the younger men instead."

Older people are often denied work or loans, or are forced to take physically-depleting, demanding, or low-paid work that younger people are no longer willing to do.

"I am still strong and capable," he tells us. “Nobody has any use for old people but I need to find work to put food on the table for me and my wife."

'A burden to the family'

Pictured: Now that 80-year-old Mamo cannot work, he is seen as a burden

Some older people find themselves facing ageism when they are no longer able to work because their families see them as a burden and a drain on resources.  

80-year-old Mamo says: "I can no longer work, and that means I have lost my say."

Zero contract hours

Mohammad breaks brick for a living

Pictured: 73-year-old Mohammad is forced to work with no contract or job security

Millions of older people work in the informal economy - without contracts, workers' benefits, or job security. 

From 8am to 5pm, Mohammad breaks bricks for a living.

"My worry is that I have no contract, no security. If I am sick and cannot work, the job is given to someone else," he says.

"This is becoming a problem because my health is getting bad. I already hadbreathing difficulties but the dust from the brick breaking is making it worse."

'Wasting' medicines on older people 

Older women living with HIV have been told that they are 'using up drugs' that 'belong to young people'. Or they are told that they 'should know better' than to contract the virus.

Some are regularly denied access to life-saving healthcare and medicines, just because of their age.

And it isn't just healthcare. Thousands of older people around the world are reguarly exluded from all kinds of essential services. They are denied access to loans and social protection schemes. They are forgotten or excluded by government and NGO programmes alike.

Ageism is unacceptable. At Age International, we work to combat ageism around the world and to challenge common misconceptions about older people.

At Age International, we combat ageism by:  
• Building support for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Person
• Making sure older people are included in key development targets
• Raising the profile of ageism with government and institutions around the world
Empowering older people through our programmes
• Giving out  age-friendly loans and providing  age-friendly healthcare
• Supporting the Age Demands Action campaigns

What you can do

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