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Report calls for cultural shift to combat ageism

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A new report highlights how many older people continue to be mocked, demonised and patronised. These findings are particularly relevant to the Irish community, which has an older profile in comparison to other groups.

  • "Later life is as much a time of diversity as any other age."
    Photo credit: Gavin Freeborn

In a new report entitled Doddery but Dear?, the Centre for Ageing Better has reviewed the ways in which we talk about and present later life. It says that often older people are viewed as incompetent, a burden on society and hostile. The Centre wants to shift the narrative on age and ageing in order to combat ageism. Ageism can have a negative effect on our physical and mental health.

Society in Britain is undergoing a major shift. In less than 20 years, it is projected that one in four will be over 65. The Centre for Ageing Better argues that unless major action is taken many of us will miss out on enjoying our later years. 

The report will be of acute interest to the Irish in Britain as our community had the highest median age (53) among all major ethnic groups in the 2011 census.

The report is critical of metaphors in the media such as a ‘demographic timebomb’ and ‘grey tsunami’, reflecting a perception of old age as a societal burden. Generations are also being set against each other with ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’ perceived to be clashing in a battle over resources and power.

We must, the report argues, challenge this narrative and recognise that later life is as much a time of diversity as any other age. It calls for more realistic depictions of ageing in traditional media, social media and policy–making circles.

Of course, health issues become more prevalent later in life, but stereotypes ignore the variation of experience between people of the same age and there is a tendency to see people of the same age as more similar to one another.

Anna Dixon, CEO of the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

 “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.”

“The responses to the Covid–19 crisis have thrown up serious questions about the way we think and talk about older people, and highlighted what an impact those attitudes can have.”


Go to our dedicated online section for all our resources and information on supporting our community through the coronavirus health crisis.