Over a seven day-period more than 2,400 ageist terms were used on social media channels including Twitter and blogs. Try typing phrases like “Little old lady”, “Old Hag” or “Grumpy old woman” into Twitter and you’ll see they’re used thousands of times a week.
The Ageist Britain Report by Sunlife, which surveyed 4,000 UK adults and analysed thousands of tweets and blog posts in the UK, found a further one in 30 people admitted to regularly discriminating against anyone aged over 50 – and more than one in 10 admitting that they don’t even know if they are ageist.
Casual ageism is part of our everyday language – we read in the report- It’s so ingrained that many ageist remarks are often overlooked, missed or simply accepted. Many sentiments are subtle and can even be well-intentioned. But the truth is that ‘ageist’ language, however casual, can have a huge impact on our perception of life after 50 and the way we treat people we meet.
Unfortunately, that ageist language, however casual, keeps alive the myth that life after 50 must be worse than before it. Take the term ‘you look good for your age’ – on the surface, it seems positive, but it is a classic ambiguous compliment. The implication is that ‘you can’t look good when you’re older’.
According to the survey:
we begin to absorb ageist stereotypes at a young age. It seeps through the films and TV shows we watch and stories we read. Once we reach what we think is ‘old age’ we begin to apply these attitudes and misconceptions to ourselves both physically and mentally.
The British Media Personality Carol Vorderman MBE, who worked with SunLife on the research, said: “For more than two-thirds of those who are over 50 to feel badly affected by casual ageism is unacceptable. This is one of the final taboos to smash through. Life after 50 is a great kind of different. It can be the best time of all: less stressful, less competitive, freer, happier, more joyful. Life at any age is there to embrace, so it’s time we stopped using ageist language, intentional or not.”
What we can do to #retireageism?
The Ageist Britain Report has highlighted the top 3 most popular ways people think we can combat ageism:
- If more brands used different models of all ages for their advertising campaigns (37%)
- If the issues associated with ageism had the same level of attention as racism and sexism (33%)
- If people were more aware of the use of ageist language and avoided derogatory terms (33%)
The bottom line is “to change the way we think about ageing, we need to change the way we talk about ageing. Until we consciously make a step to change the way we talk and look at life after 50, ageism will only become more pervasive”. So, let’s start paying closer attention to the language we use and hear. And when you see or hear ageism in action, get to them think about their behaviour and language.
In our opinion, in order to challenge stereotypes, it’s also important to look after ourselves, being active, informed and up-to-date about the world around us. If we all take these steps, we can take huge strides towards finally retiring ageism.