Ageism, or age bias is a form of discrimination that occurs when one person discriminates against another based on their age. It’s similar in nature to other forms of discrimination such as sexism or racism and can have similar effects on those who are afflicted by this type of discrimination. Ageism can be seen in various places throughout the community, including in the workplace and other locations where a young age is prized and seen as superior to older ages. With close to 80% of individuals ages 60 and older experiencing ageism in some form, it’s important to stand up for our elders and stop negative stereotypes whenever possible.
If you’re an older adult and believe you’ve been a victim of ageism, you may need a lawyer. Luckily, the dedicated attorneys at Florin|Roebig are here to help.
What Is Ageism?
Ageism is a form of discrimination and/or stereotyping of groups of people or individuals based on their age. There are several different forms of ageism that can take place, including prejudices against older individuals, institutional policies that specifically discriminate against age, and stereotypical beliefs that support the cycle of age discrimination seen in our society. Ageism is similar to any other form of prejudice or discrimination and can have negative effects on those involved.
Ageism was first termed by the gerontologist Robert N. Butler as a way to express the discrimination he witnessed of older individuals. This term is still used to describe this type of discrimination, but also describes discrimination against individuals who are younger, as well. For example, children, teenagers, and millennials who are discriminated against for their age are considered victims of ageism.
Manifestations And Examples Of Ageism
There are three primary types of ageism. These types can be seen individually or may work together when discriminating against an age group. These types of ageism include:
- Cognitive: Cognitive ageism is when stereotypes are used to think about individuals in relation to their age. For example, thinking that an older individual will cross the road at a slower pace than a younger person is an instance of stereotyping.
- Emotional: This type of ageism is the prejudice a person holds against others in relation to their age. Prejudice is often attached to emotion.
- Behavioral: The behavioral dimension of ageism is when a person physically or verbally acts out to show their discrimination against a person based on their age.
Additionally, there are a few key ways in which ageism is expressed among individuals and within our society. These ways include:
- On a micro level: This is when ageism is practiced among individuals rather than among groups or societies.
- On a meso level: This is when ageism is ingrained within social media networks and is a common belief held by individuals of that network.
- On a macro level: This is when ageism is seen and practiced within cultures or institutions.
What’s more, research has found that there are a few primary stereotypes associated with ageism. These stereotypes are most commonly seen in younger individuals and reflect how younger persons believe older people should behave. These stereotypes include:
- Succession: This refers to when a younger person believes that an older person “had their turn” and should step out of the way for younger individuals.
- Consumption: This stereotype describes when younger individuals believe that limited resources should be used on younger generations rather than older generations.
- Identity: This stereotype refers to the belief that older individuals should “act their age,” or “act” like older individuals.
As you can see, ageism goes far beyond a single person discriminating against another and can affect entire societies, cultures, and nations.
Effects Of Ageism
Ageism has harmful effects that extend far beyond the ability to get a job or not be discriminated against in one’s society. Ageism can negatively impact the health of older individuals, with research showing that those with “negative attitudes” towards aging can live up to 7.5 years less than those who have a more positive outlook on getting older. This means that being a victim of ageism or believing the stereotypes that accompany ageism can quite literally shorten a person’s life.
Additionally, ageism can have negative impacts on other areas of a person’s health as well. For example, victims of ageism have been shown to have higher levels of cardiovascular stress and reduced levels of self-efficacy and productivity.
What’s more, because our healthcare system is another primary source of ageism, older individuals are more likely to be wrongly diagnosed with more severe conditions than what they actually have based solely on their age. For example, a person presenting with cognitive distortion may inaccurately be diagnosed with dementia when the symptom is simply a part of the process of growing older.
Another negative effect of ageism is how society treats older individuals. A society that is ingrained with ageism is more likely to promote ageism stereotypes which can lead to older individuals feeling isolated, inefficient, and as if they are a burden on society. This can also contribute to the negative effects of ageism and result in older individuals experiencing increased instances of depression and other mood disorders.
Ageism In The Healthcare Setting
Unfortunately, the healthcare system is a primary place where ageism can be seen in our society.
In fact, a national study found that one out of five adults older than 50 experienced discrimination due to their age in a healthcare setting, and one in 17 experienced ageism in healthcare settings on a regular basis. Even more alarming, 29% of the study participants who were victims of ageism in a healthcare setting admitted to new or worsening symptoms or disabilities over a four-year time span. This is a sobering example of ageism in healthcare and the negative impact it can have on a person’s overall health and well-being.
Ageism in a healthcare setting can lead to several negative effects for not only the individual but also for society at large. For example, over treatment, which is often seen due to age discrimination in healthcare, can result in $158 billion to $226 billion additional medical dollars every year. Additionally, ageism can lead to over treatment of certain conditions, which can result in doctors performing unnecessary and even dangerous procedures on older individuals. Doctors are also more likely to be less patient, responsive, engaged, and interested in elderly patients when they hold discriminations against those of an older age.
Age Discrimination In The Workplace
Age discrimination in the workplace is one of the most common places where ageism is seen. This is often due to the fact that some employers believe that younger individuals are more effective and a better investment than those who are older.
Ageism can also be seen among employees, with younger employees stereotyping or discriminating against older employees due to their age. It’s important to note that age discrimination is illegal at any point throughout the employment process, including when posting about jobs, during job interviews, the hiring and training process, assigning job tasks, promotions, layoffs, and benefits.
There are several ways in which ageism can be seen in the work environment including:
- Leaving out older individuals from company activities, client meetings, or other relevant events related to the workplace
- Not offering opportunities for learning new skills to older employees but making them readily available for younger workers
- Making subtle or overt comments about an employee’s age
- Being looked over for promotions and/or raises due to age
- Being given fewer or easier assignments than employees of a younger age
- Not receiving the same benefits or compensation of employees of a younger age in a similar position within the company
- Not getting hired for a new job due to age
- Not being given an interview due to age
Additionally, many employers consider older workers to cost more in terms of employment. For example, an employer may believe that an older employee will require a higher salary or pension compared to a younger employee, and therefore hire the younger employee to save money.
Facts About Age Discrimination
The following are several important facts about ageism and age discrimination in the United States:
- The AARP reported that one in five employees in the United States who are over the age of 55 have experienced discrimination based on their age.
- The AARP also found that 58% of individuals who were surveyed began experiencing ageism in the workplace at the age of 50.
- According to a survey conducted by the AARP, not getting hired for a position is the most common type of ageism that people experience in the United States.
- Seventy-one percent of adults over the age of 55 feel that advertising images do not reflect their lives or lifestyles.
- Only 10% of individuals ages 65 to 69 are currently employed in the United States.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 18,376 complaints in 2017 that were filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
- The job search for someone age 55 or older takes up to three months longer than someone who is younger.
Age Discrimination Laws And Acts
There are a few key acts that have been put in place within the United States to protect individuals who are older. These acts include:
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was put in place to protect people ages 40 and older from discriminatory employment practices due to their age. This act applies to both those applying for jobs and current employees. Under this act, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their age. This includes any condition, term, or privilege of employment, including benefits, compensation, hiring, training, and firing.
This act applies to employers who have at least 20 employees as well as labor organizations, employment agencies, and the federal government.
Components of the ADEA include:
Pre-employment inquiries: This component protects individuals ages 40 and older from being discriminated against should they include their age on an application or respond to an inquiry from an employer about their age.
Job advertisements and notices: This component makes it illegal to advertise job openings that include age preferences, specifications, or limitations based on age.
Apprenticeship programs: This component makes it illegal for apprenticeship programs to discriminate against applicants based on the person’s age.
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA)
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 protects employees who are age 40 and older from discrimination against employers based on their age during the hiring, employment, and termination processes. This act amended the ADEA to further preserve the rights of works over the age of 40 no matter the condition of employment.
Under the OWBPA, employees who are 40 or older are eligible for various employment benefits and protects them from being unfairly fired. It also protects them from being pressured into signing any legal waivers that would prevent them from receiving certain benefits. Under the OWBPA, employers cannot target older employees for “reduction in force programs,” ask older employees to sign waivers of age discrimination claims, or use an older employee’s age as cause for employment termination.
Resources To Use If You’re Being Discriminated Against Due To Your Age
If you’ve been discriminated against due to your age, there are certain steps you can take to pursue a claim to receive the treatment and care you deserve. A primary way is to file a claim against your employer, a healthcare facility, or another entity that expressed ageism. One way to file a claim is to file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can do this by calling the EEOC at 800-669-4000 or visiting their website at https://www.eeoc.gov. If able, you should file this charge within 180 days of the when the discrimination took place.
Once you file a charge, the EEOC will notify your employer and begin an investigation into the claim.
If you or a loved on have experienced age discrimination you can also work with an experienced lawyer such as those at Florin|Roebig. We will ensure you get the support, help, and services you need to seek justice for the harm that’s been done due to discrimination.