An older woman smiling at the camera

Research about ageism

The following research and resources, created by the Centre for Ageing Better and others in the UK and around the world, explores different aspects of ageism and its impact on individuals and society. 

From the Centre for Ageing Better: 

Doddery but dear? Examining age-related stereotypes 

This report looks at the role and impact of language and stereotypes in framing old age and ageing in the UK. 

  • Negative stereotypes are rife in the workplace, in health and social care and in the media, with women and people from minority ethnic groups facing “double jeopardy” of discrimination. 
  • Ageist stereotypes can become self-fulfilling prophecies, affecting how older people view themselves, their own capabilities and the kinds of tasks and activities they engage with. 

Exploring representations of old age and ageing – Literature review 

This report summarises the key findings from a semi-systematic review of research and policy documents to shed light on how society thinks and feels about ageing and older people. 

An old age problem? How society shapes negative attitudes to ageing 

Ageing is often associated with decline and ill-health, and older people are commonly portrayed as frail, vulnerable and dependent. 

This report looks at the language used by government, the media and social media, advertising and ageing-focused charities in relation to the topics of age, ageing and demographic change. 

  • Political discourse mainly frames the ageing population as a costly ‘crisis’. 
  • Media narratives generally represent ageing and older age as a time of decline and frailty. In the context of the debate on ‘intergenerational fairness’, age is often conflated with other factors such as wealth and class. 
  • Advertisements generally fail to accurately depict the diversity of experience of those in later life. Ageing is often linked to death and decline and seen as something that we must ‘fight’. 
  • Ageing-focused charities have a more nuanced view, but certain fundraising narratives can disproportionately skew our understanding of what people in later life are experiencing towards the negative and disempowered. 

Reframing ageing: Public perceptions of ageing and older age 

Ageism in society is harmful to people of all ages as this research highlights

  • Over half of adults in England (55%) believe that the UK is ageist. 
  • People in their 50s and 60s are most likely to feel negative about ageing. 
  • 54% of the adults don’t agree that older people today benefit at the expense of younger people. 

Ageism: What's the harm? 

Ageism is often dismissed as being harmless, but evidence shows that it causes significant damage to individuals, the economy and society. 

This paper gives an overview of the harm that ageism causes to both individuals and society. 

Cast aside: Exploring the presence of older characters in British films 

This paper looks at the inclusion of older characters in British films over the last decade, how often they're included and how they're portrayed. It finds that older characters are underrepresented in British films, with only one in ten older characters involved in major plotlines. 

A woman thinking at a table

External research and resources:

Age Without Limits draws on a wide range of resources and expertise from external partners, including (but not limited to) the following: 

The WHO Global Campaign to Combat Ageism 

The World Health Organisation is working together with key partners on a Global Campaign to Combat Ageism—an initiative supported by WHO's 194 Member States. The Campaign aims to change the narrative around age and ageing and help create a world for all ages. 

Key resources from the campaign include: 

  • Global report on ageism 
    • This report brings together the best available evidence on the nature and magnitude of ageism, its determinants and its impact.
  • Connecting generations 
    • This guide builds on the evidence that interventions for intergenerational contact is one of three strategies that have been proven to work in addressing ageism, together with policy and law and educational interventions. 

Old School: Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse 

Old School curates, creates, commissions and disseminates free resources to educate people about ageism and how to end it; hosts and facilitates spaces where age advocates around the world can connect; collaborates with other pro-ageing organisations; and shows up for other social-justice movements. 

TED: Let's end ageism 

In this talk, leading US ageism campaigner Ashton Applewhite urges us to dismantle the dread and mobilise against ageism - the last socially acceptable prejudice. 

Every Age Counts 

EveryAGE Counts is an advocacy campaign aimed at tackling ageism against older Australians. 

Developing a national barometer of prejudice and discrimination in Britain 

The first national survey for over a decade, by Dominic Abrams, Hannah Swift and Diane Houston for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, explores prejudiced attitudes and discrimination across equality strands, including age. 

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales 

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales exists to protect older people’s rights, end ageism and age discrimination, stop the abuse of older people and enable everyone to age well. Find out about the action the Commissioner is taking to end ageism and age discrimination in Wales.