Ageism: Meaning and Types

Gerontologist Robert N. Butler coined the term "ageism" to refer to preconception against senior citizens. The phrase is now used to refer to any form of age-based discrimination, including hostility toward young people, adults, seniors, and even grownups. While ageism was once regarded as a problem that mostly afflicted older persons, there is now a much deeper understanding of how age-based prejudice and stereotypes affect younger individuals and even progenies. Ageism can have major negative effects.

Meaning of Ageism

Ageism or simply agism is an act of practicing discrimination against people or even organizations based solely on their age. In 1969, Robert Neil Butler used a phrase to characterize prejudice against elders that was based on sexism and racism. According to Butler, ageism is the confluence of three interrelated factors. It was first primarily associated with older people, old age, and the aging process, with discrimination against older people, and with institutional practices and policies that support negative perceptions of the elderly.

Symptoms of Ageism

Ageism can take many forms, from subtly discriminatory behaviors to overt ones. Ageism can manifest in a number of ways, like −

  • Being passed over for advancements or raises at work or at school because of exclusion from a group being fired or made to retire.

  • Negative remarks regarding a person's age.

  • Having your opinions or contributions rejected or neglected.

  • Sacrificing advantages like paid time off.

  • Being unable to obtain educational opportunities.

Types of Ageism

Ageism can be categorized in numerous ways. Ageism is referred to in the following ways −

  • Ageism that is institutionalized—defined as when a body institutionalizes ageism through its practices and policies—occurs.

  • Interpersonal ageism that manifests itself in social situations.

  • Ageism that a person internalizes and applies to oneself is known as internalized ageism.

Ageism Against Old People

According to researchers, perceptions about older people frequently correspond to how younger people anticipate them to act.

  • Succession − Younger people frequently believe that elderly people should make way for them since they have "had their turn" and are no longer needed.

  • Consumption − Younger people usually believe that older folks should receive less of the few resources available than they should.

  • Identity − Younger individuals believe that older people should "act their age" and refrain from attempting to "steal" their identities, including things like speaking habits and clothing choices.

Reverse Ageism

Younger people are negatively impacted by ageism as well. Reverse ageism can prevent younger employees from moving up the corporate ladder by dismissing them as being too inexperienced, unprofessional, or unqualified.

Effects of Ageism

More than merely hurting your feelings and making you feel undervalued, ageist attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors can cause significant harm. Your mental and physical health, feeling of value, social life, and even your income can all be significantly impacted by age bias and discrimination.

Physical Effect

Early death rates are associated with ageism. According to one study, older people who self-directedly aged and believed they were useless lived shorter lives than those who had favorable self-perceptions. Self-directed ageism can also have a negative impact on one's health, including short-term and chronic illnesses. Ageism also seems to make physical diseases take longer to heal.

It's also likely that older people suffer worse outcomes as a result of ageism in the medical profession.

  • According to research, older patients are more likely than younger ones to be denied access to medications that would otherwise keep them alive.

  • In clinical trials and other types of health research, older people are typically underrepresented. Due to this, there may be fewer campaigns addressing problems like the sexual health of elderly people and medications and treatments that are harmful rather than helpful.

  • Suppository nonadherence, in which the patient fails to take the medication as directed, is one problem that can arise from a lack of communication between medical professionals and elderly patients.

Mental Health Effects

Ageism can lead to loneliness and social isolation. You might prefer to stay away from social gatherings if you feel that your family has rejected you. You may also isolate yourself or hesitate to travel because of media messages that have left you afraid of becoming a victim of crime. The myths and stereotypes surrounding sex in later life can make people reluctant to engage in physical intimacy. You may find it more difficult to interact with others due to institutional restrictions like forced retirement.

How to Handle Ageism

Accepting reality is the first step in combating ageism. You are indeed aging, and it can bring about certain changes. Your body might not perform as well as it once did. Maybe you're having trouble hearing, or maybe your eyesight isn't as good as it used to be. Additionally, you might notice that your face is developing wrinkles. All of this could make you feel pessimistic about getting older and more insecure about your skills. It's alright.

Do not repress your unpleasant emotions; rather, allow them to surface. But make an effort to maintain perspective. You still have a lot of life left in you, despite what ageist messaging would say, and you have a lot of opportunities ahead of you. Additionally, you have a lot to give those close to you, whether it is love, assistance, or knowledge. Use the advice below to combat ageism on both the inside and outside.

  • Bolster The Links Between Generations − Because in-person interactions allow people to see past preconceptions, intergenerational relationships can lessen the likelihood of ageism. Spending more time with your children, grandchildren, younger colleagues, or younger members of your neighborhood is something to think about.

  • Confront Stereotypes − You can physically represent your message in addition to making ageist remarks. The likelihood of mental health problems, including anxiety and suicidal ideation, can be decreased by resisting age-related preconceptions. Keep your sagacity of independence as strong as you can in as many aspects of your life in light of this.

  • Manage Stress − You may maintain your confidence and increase your self-esteem by learning how to manage your stress. Additionally, it can assist you in overcoming the detrimental psychological and physical impacts of self-directed ageism, such as a higher risk of depression and long-term health issues. Your brain releases hormones during physical activity that lift your mood. Exercise is a great way to improve your general confidence and self-image. Develop a well-rounded fitness program that combines aerobic, strength training, balance, and flexibility exercises.


The Indian parliament needs to pass rules that address age discrimination or ageism in the workplace. While ageism is sometimes overlooked, it is still a serious offense against a person's dignity and respect. The victim may experience low self-esteem and feelings of insult, which can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, including suicide, loneliness, a fear of social interaction, insecurity, and demoralization, among others.

The Indian government may pass legislation prohibiting ageism, amend Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, which addresses the crime of defamation, or change a tort law that addresses defamation. The age discrimination in employment act of 1967, a labor legislation that prohibits employment discrimination against those over 40 in the United States, shows that many other nations regard this crime as severely as the United States does.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is Nonperson?

Ans. A citizen or member of a group that lacks, loses, or is forcibly denied social or legal status, particularly fundamental human rights, or who essentially loses a traceable, documented, or existing record of their presence within a society is referred to as a "nonperson."

Q2. What do you mean by Disfranchisement?

Ans. Disfranchisement, also known as disenfranchisement or voter disqualification, is the deprivation of a person's or a group's right to vote or a practice that has the same effect.

Q3. Define the term Ableism?

Ans. Ability discrimination labels people according to how their impairments define them and categorizes persons with disabilities as being less than people without impairments.

Updated on: 08-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started