Ageism - key terms

It can be difficult to keep up with all the different terms used when talking about ageism.

We've explained some of the key terms below, but let us know if there are any you think should be added.


The stereotyping, prejudice and/or discrimination against people based on their age. 

Age discrimination: 

When someone is unfairly disadvantaged for reasons, which cannot be objectively justified, relating to their age. Ageism includes ageist attitudes whereas age discrimination refers to actual treatment (e.g. being denied resources, being insulted etc). 


A person who holds discriminatory attitudes or beliefs based on age. 

Age stereotype: 

A generalised belief or assumption about a person or group of people based on their age. 

Age bias: 

Unfairly favouring or disfavouring someone based on their age. 

Compassionate ageism:

Where older people are seen as inherently needy and deserving of help. This belief can lead to the use of language and behaviours that demean and disempower, patronise and infantilise older people. 

Positive ageism:

Where ageing is presented in an overtly positive way (often in an attempt to challenge negative beliefs) but creates an expectation that most people cannot live up to. For example, the promotion of older people undertaking age-defying feats such as 90-year-olds skydiving or running marathons. 

Ageing population:

An ageing population is an increase in the number of older people within a population, whilst the number of young people remains low or does not increase. 

Age cohort: 

A group of people who were born during the same time period and share certain historical, social, and cultural experiences. 

Baby boomer:  

A member of the generation born during the population surge in the years immediately following World War II, from 1946 to 1964. 


Refers to environments, policies, and practices that are inclusive and considerate of individuals of all ages. 

Retirement age: 

The age at which a person is expected or required to retire from employment. In the UK there is no set retirement age, but there is a State Pension Age (currently 66 years old for both men and women).