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In our society, having a negative attitude towards older people – whether in their 50s and 60s or beyond – is a genuine issue that is becoming more of a worry as our population – and workforce – matures. This article will discuss what is Ageism, and how to promote Age Equality and Age Inclusion in Diversity and Inclusion Policies.

Ageism Diversity Equality

What is Ageism?

Simply put, Ageism is when you are categorised, discriminated against, or have an assumption made about a person based on their age.

Robert Butler used the word “ageism” in 1969 to describe the “process of systematic stereotyping or prejudice against individuals because they are elderly.”

 According to this report on Ageism, more than a third (37%) of individuals over 45 believe they have been discriminated against at work because of their age.

What many people don’t realise is that Ageism may also apply to the general population. Ageism has very comparable impacts on young people as it does on the senior population. They may be mocked or patronised, passed over for advancement chances, or given low pay in contrast to others. Indeed, more than half of those under 18 believe they are not taken seriously at work because of their age.

What does Ageism look like?

Age discrimination may occur at any moment, from the first stages of the employment process and throughout your training through discussions about retirement.

According to the Equality Act of 2010, age is one of nine categories that are deemed a “protected feature,” along with race, gender, pregnancy, and disability. This implies that we are all protected from age-based discrimination and harassment. Unfortunately, this does not mean that the Equality Act prevented Ageism in the workplace. 

A recent report from the Centre for Ageing Better shares that a negative view of ageing still prevails in different sectors of society, as for example, in the political discourse when the ageing population is constantly related to an increase in cost for the government pockets. Ageing is associated with a challenge and treated as a homogeneous group. There is a lot more stigma related to ageing than most people realise.

Ageism in the work enviroment

Making judgments about a person’s skills, behaviour, or prospects based on their assumptive age from their experience is the first stumbling block that many businesses face. Some may believe that a candidate over 65 would be unable to keep up with recent technology.

Ageism may significantly affect people’s professional lives, but it can also impact their personal lives and confidence. Many victims of Ageism face ageist terminology in the workplace, such as using terms like “over the hill” or “kids.” Alternatively, individuals may encounter micro-incivilities, which are subtle behaviours that indicate that someone is not appreciated or accepted in a specific setting. As previously discussed by The Writing Box in our article “why it is important for businesses to invest in diversity and inclusion to stay relevant“, age is also part of D&I.

How to Promote Age Diversity & Inclusion?

Your duty as a leader is to ensure that your whole staff is aware of Ageism, whether conscious or unconscious and that everyone in your department is treated equally. Your team must understand the limits and what not to do. Therefore here are some steps that everyone on your team should do to fight workplace ageism:

  • Priority should be given to experience rather than age.

When considering the kind of individuals you want to hire, consider their credentials and experience more than their age. Unless it is necessary for a job, offer all candidates an equal chance to demonstrate their abilities and expertise before excluding them based on their age.

  • You should not make any assumptions.

Avoiding preconceptions about your team members is the most effective approach to combat workplace ageism. Even if they are the same age, every one of your workers will be in a different stage in their life. A 70-year-old team member, for example, may not be ready to retire, while a 60-year-old coworker may be considering early retirement.

Making assumptions, on the other hand, is not limited to people looking to retire. It is also essential for assessing job performance. That’s because their age doesn’t determine someone’s talents and capacities; they’re determined by appropriate instruction and results. So, while evaluating performance, make sure to ignore any age bias you might have and make sure you’re doing all you can to establish a fair playing field for everyone.

  • Consider all employees for advancement possibilities.

Naturally, younger employees may be more likely to be considered for training and advancement possibilities. However, this does not exclude older, more experienced team members from having access to the same chances to learn and grow. Regardless of age, make sure you are aware of everyone’s abilities and what training they may like to participate in.

  • Don’t use ageist terminology.

Being aware of discriminatory or stereotyped language in the workplace is one of the easiest things you and your team can do. Sometimes our linguistic choices are unintentional. Perhaps you could imply that an older coworker is experiencing a “senior moment” when they miss a deadline. Phrases like this may seem trivial, yet they may significantly affect the person on the other end. 

Make communication channels available.

Communication is essential in every company. It’s critical that your staff feel at ease and appreciated to be comfortable enough to come to you with any concerns. Discuss age discrimination in the workplace openly, and make time to check in with people who may be impacted.

Combating all kinds of workplace discrimination, whether racism, sexism, or Ageism, should be a top concern for every leader. Your employees, regardless of age, should feel appreciated and equally treated. By creating a clear policy against Ageism for your company and making sure everyone feels respected will improve teamwork and the results you are looking for. Happy employees, happy company, consistent results.