One of the characteristics of situations of discrimination is that often those who suffer it do not have the necessary means to denounce this injustice.

The fact is that there are certain conditions in which it is not even possible to organize a sufficiently large and well-managed number of people to ensure that the voice of the victims is heard loud and clear, as well as their demands. Ageism, or age discrimination, is one of the clearest examples of this . Let us see what it consists of and how it is expressed in everyday life.

What is ageism?

In itself, ageism is a fairly simple concept, and its definition could be simply this: discrimination towards older people, that is , who belong to the fourth and third age. Just as with racism or sexism, in ageism there are large groups of the population who are alienated from major decision-making, and it seems that other generations have “colonized” their living environments.

In addition, ageism is a problem in virtually all cultures. While in Western countries people in the process of ageing are not left to die without consuming the resources of the community, it is true that older people continue to be subjected to clearly discriminatory measures and attitudes.

Examples of ageism in our daily lives

Below you can see some expressions of ageism that are so common that many of them pass for something normal .

1. The lack of representation in television and cinema

Beyond politics, virtually any content that is broadcast on television or shown in cinemas has a clear lack of representation of older people. Either they appear very little, or they do not play a major role in what is being said. The reason is that in such image-based media, old age does not sell because it is considered unsightly.

Thus, older people lack references and do not have figures that make their own problems and situation visible .

2. Architectural barriers

Another aspect that clearly discriminates against older people is the presence of architectural barriers, such as steep stairs or the absence of public transport in spaces where it is difficult to walk.

3. Employment discrimination

One of the clearest signs of ageism is the discrimination suffered by many older people who want to work and who have the ability to do so well. The simple fact of passing a certain age is a complete refusal to be hired, or which means that it is complicated to get out of unemployment. Moreover, this is suffered even by people who have not yet reached 60 years of age .

On the other hand, since older people often live more isolated than people in other age groups because of their lack of training in new technologies and because of problems related to architectural barriers, their political organisation is complicated.

4. The stigmatization of sexuality in older people

This point is quite similar to the first, as it is based on an ageist consideration of what is aesthetic and what is unsightly. The nudity and intimacy of the elderly is considered to be unsightly , and therefore its expression is socially admonished, either with clear rejection or with mockery. Old age is conceived as a vital stage in which one has to worry about things other than sex; however, those who sustain it are always young or middle-aged people, who can enjoy the privilege of living their sexuality openly.

5. Condescension

Old age is seen as the equivalent of ignorance and an almost total lack of ability to think. That is why in practice it is very common to treat those who have entered old age as if they were children of a few years old and were learning how the world works. This, of course, is another example of ageism that can pass for a simple well-intentioned disposition to help others.

6. Controlling your living conditions

Many older people are seen as unable to make decisions for themselves and therefore dependent on others for guidance. That is, age itself is used as an excuse to restrict their freedom .

Types of Ageism

Age discrimination takes shape both at the personal and institutional levels.

Personal Ageing

It consists of beliefs, attitudes and prejudices that in practice harm older people. For example, the belief that older people should not be able to vote .


Institutional Ageing

This is a type of discrimination that is materially present in objective aspects of how society functions. For example, in the policy of institutionalisation in centres for the elderly, which can sometimes go against the will of older people, or in laws that put unemployed older people in a clearly vulnerable situation .