Ageism - Definition and Explanation

Ageism – Definition and Explanation

Understanding Ageism: Definition, Examples, and Impact on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Ageism is a prevalent issue in today’s society, yet often overlooked in discussions surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This form of discrimination is based on stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination against individuals or groups based on their age, whether old or young. Understanding ageism is crucial for fostering an inclusive environment that values individuals of all ages. 


Ageism refers to discrimination, stereotyping, or prejudice against individuals or groups based on their age. It can manifest in various forms, including but not limited to, assumptions about capabilities, opportunities denied or limited, or societal attitudes that marginalise certain age groups. Ageism can affect both older and younger individuals, impacting their access to employment, healthcare, education, and other opportunities.


  1. Employment Discrimination: Older workers often face challenges in the job market due to age-related stereotypes. Employers may overlook their experience and skills in favour of younger candidates, assuming older individuals are less adaptable or technologically savvy. Similarly, younger job seekers may encounter ageism when employers perceive them as lacking experience or maturity.
  2. Healthcare Bias: Ageism can influence healthcare decisions, leading to disparities in treatment. Older patients may receive less aggressive medical interventions based on assumptions about their quality of life or perceived value. Conversely, younger patients, particularly children and adolescents, may have their symptoms dismissed or not taken seriously by healthcare providers due to their age.
  3. Media Portrayals: The media often perpetuates ageist stereotypes through portrayals of older individuals as frail, technologically inept, or out of touch. Similarly, youth are sometimes depicted as irresponsible or lacking in wisdom. These representations reinforce societal biases and contribute to age-based discrimination.

Impact on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:

Addressing ageism is essential for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of society. Age diversity brings unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table, enriching workplaces, communities, and institutions. By challenging ageist attitudes and practices, organisations can create environments where individuals of all ages feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute fully.


Ageism is a pervasive form of discrimination that affects individuals of all ages, undermining diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. By recognising and addressing ageist attitudes and practices, we can create a more inclusive society where individuals are valued for their contributions regardless of age. Embracing age diversity enriches communities, workplaces, and institutions, fostering a more equitable and just world for all.


Palmore, E. (1999). Ageism: Negative and positive.

Palmore, E. B., Branch, L., & Harris, D. (2016). Encyclopedia of ageism. Routledge.

Palmore, E. (2005). Three decades of research on ageism. Generations29(3), 87-90.

Levy, S. R., & Macdonald, J. L. (2016). Progress on understanding ageism. Journal of Social Issues72(1), 5-25.

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