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Are We Ageist?

Published 07/12/2022


(07 December 2022) 

1 in 4 people experience age discrimination according to Age Action’s new poll Are We Ageist?, conducted by IrelandThinks, with people who were unemployed more than twice as likely to experience age discrimination as people with any other work status. ​

“Age Action is working to reframe how we think, feel and act towards older people and ageing in Ireland, so we commissioned a public poll to understand the degree to which we hold ageist opinions in our society. The public poll reveals that most people in Ireland hold some ageist opinion with people aged 18-34 more than two and a half times as likely to agree with three or more ageist opinions” explained Celine Clarke, Head of Advocacy and Public Affairs at Age Action.

“Ageism, like any other form of prejudice, has a negative impact on our wellbeing and the way in which we experience day-to-day life in our homes, communities and workplaces. Age Action’s poll reveals that despite age being one of the protected grounds under Equality legislation, older people continue to experience discrimination particularly in the labour market” said Clarke.


In national surveys, 4% of older persons experience work-related discrimination in 2019, up from 0% in 2004, and 8% experienced discrimination accessing services, up from 6% in 2004.

Not only can ageist opinions shape how we think and feel about others we perceive as ‘old’ or ‘young’, they can also shape how we feel about our own ageing process. Self-directed ageism is where people internalise ageist opinions that they have been repeatedly exposed to over their lives.

“Age Action’s poll shows that people aged 75+ are nearly three times as likely to hold ageist opinions than those aged 55-64, showing that they have internalised negative stereotypes about ageing. Self-directed ageism can result in people conforming to their society’s age stereotypes, which can affect their physical and mental health,” said Dr Nat O’Connor, Policy Specialist with Age Action.

Narratives that promote older age as a period of inevitable decline or that an ageing population is a crisis can promote tensions between generations and contribute to ageism.

“23% of respondents agree with the statement that older persons get more than their fair share from public services, which is the strongest predictor that a person will hold other ageist opinions. More research is needed on ageism to understand the full extent of the problem in Ireland. In addition, there is often a lack of appropriate data or statistics collected, which makes it more difficult to determine how policies affect older people. More age-sensitive practices are required in official data collection” said O’Connor.



Commissioner for Ageing and Older Persons Urgently Needed

(31 January 2023) Age Action is reiterating their call for Government to set up a Commissioner for Ageing and Older persons to bring an appropriate level of insight, representation and transparency to policy on ageing and older persons, and to help prevent scandals such as the recent revelation of a secret state policy to deter older persons from taking cases to challenge being charged for nursing home care.