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Identifying and Fighting Ageism

A wooden gavel resting atop a folder of papers reading “Age Discrimination.”The United States population is aging rapidly, and cases of ageism are more common throughout the nation. Americans are living and remaining in the workforce longer than ever before. A quarter of all U.S. employees will be 55 years or older by 2024, presenting age discrimination risks to workers and the businesses that hire them.

Ageism involves the unfair treatment of someone because of their age. Acts of ageism can be found in all types of work environments.

A 2019 Hiscox study on ageism in the workplace found that age-related discrimination cases filed by workers 65 years old and older doubled from 1990 to 2017. The authors of the study published some revealing statistics about how often ageism occurs and its devastating effect on workers:

  • 44% of workers report that they or someone they know has experienced a form of ageism in the workplace.
  • 36% of workers feel that their age has been a factor in failing to get a job since they turned 40 years old.
  • 26% of workers over 40 years old fear losing their current job due to their age.
  • 21% of workers over 40 years old report having personally faced age discrimination.

Companies that acknowledge how pervasive and destructive ageism is in the workplace profit from understanding the value and challenges of older workers and addressing the needs of older workers.

Who Experiences Ageism?

Nursing home senior abuse is among the most egregious forms of ageism. However, people above the age of 40 have experienced age discrimination at work or in their daily lives as well. Stereotypes that discriminate against young people can also be considered a form of ageism.

Like other forms of prejudice and discrimination, the denial of human rights based on age impacts not only the victim but also those around them.

Where Does Ageism Occur?

Victims of ageism are anywhere someone claims an unfair advantage over another based on their age, and it occurs in both the most obvious and subtle ways throughout society.

The Workplace

Ageism in the workplace can take many forms, from being passed over for advancement and financial opportunities to disparaging comments and actions about age. Older workers may be overlooked for promotions or challenging projects, while younger workers’ safety may be compromised based on their age.

With technology driving much of the modern work environment, older employees may fall victim to digital abuse. Having your computer or mobile devices compromised by those with criminal intent can jeopardize your personal information and the security of your job.

Healthcare

Medical care becomes more of a primary concern with age, creating opportunities for discrimination that can have serious, long-lasting health and financial consequences. Dealing with doctors’ offices, pharmacies, insurance companies, and other senior healthcare needs can result in unfair treatment.

Long-term assisted living facilities present additional concerns for seniors and their families. Nursing home abuse is an extreme form of ageism. Residents of senior care facilities are entitled to basic rights — violating those rights could be a reflection of active abuse, or other forms of neglect that impact quality of life for seniors.

Daily Life

You do not have to be a senior citizen in a nursing home or a middle-aged worker in an office to experience age discrimination. Forms of ageism happen regularly. Stereotypes involving both older and younger people lead to age-related microaggressions and overt displays of ageism.

Assumptions about the ability to accomplish or understand something based on your age can occur at work, in the grocery store, at a restaurant, when dealing with your landscaper, or anywhere there are people of different ages or generations.

Consequences of Ageism

Whenever a group of people is denied basic human rights due to a specific trait or common characteristic, the personal and societal consequences are real. Regardless of the size or impact of an infraction, ageism is unfair. From the slightest, nearly imperceptible comment regarding someone’s age to life-threatening health complications due to a lack of respect for seniors, it has the potential to be psychologically hurtful and physically harmful.

How to Combat Ageism

Ageism is a violation that can result in severe or life-threatening consequences. Awareness and understanding are key to combating the destructive nature of age discrimination.

The following are examples of ways to combat ageism:

Speak Out: Do not allow yourself or others to be bullied or taken advantage of because of ageism. Speak up when offhand comments or overt actions of age discrimination take place. There may be times when others are not even aware that they are insensitive or discriminatory, and bringing it to their attention could prevent future incidents.

Healthcare Advocate: If you or a loved one fears age discrimination in any area of your healthcare, a healthcare advocate could be enlisted to ensure proper medical treatment and long-term care. An objective healthcare professional can facilitate healthcare and insurance needs on your behalf, though a family member can also serve as an advocate if necessary.

Change Care Circumstances: When older individuals are not receiving the care and attention they deserve and are paying for, they are free to examine alternative senior care options to their current situation. Changing doctors or insurance companies or moving into a new nursing home can often eliminate individual age discrimination issues with abuse or other forms of ageism.

Take Legal Action: In cases of ageism that involve serious consequences or personal injury, victims may take legal action against violators of ageism laws. Employers, nursing homes, physicians, or anyone that discriminates against another person based on their age can be sued for damages.