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Age Prejudice and Discrimination

Bill Bytheway

Subject Sociology of Health, Aging, and Medicine » Sociology of Aging

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Agism is often defined as prejudice and discrimination against older people on the basis of age. Women are disadvantaged and oppressed as a result of sexism. Black and minority ethnic groups are disadvantaged and oppressed by racism. In similar ways age is held against older people due to agism. The dominant social order of many contemporary societies has been radically changed by campaigns against sexism and racism. Many countries have legislation intended to end such discrimination and to ensure equal opportunities regardless of gender or ethnicity. In contrast there is comparatively little legal constraint relating to age. Age discrimination is when people are denied resources or opportunities as a result of being judged to be old. Age prejudice is when older people are viewed in stereotypical and negative ways. At the individual level these actions are triggered either by chronological age or by the visual appearance of the person: face, body, and dress. Collectively, agism may be evident in the way in which services are organized, located, or described. In his classic definition of agism as “a process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old,” Robert Butler (1975) did not see being old as problematic. However, as he goes on to observe: “Old people are categorized as senile, rigid in thought and manner, old-fashioned in morality ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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