Frequently Asked Questions

Ageism can be a complicated topic and we know people often have questions.  We hope you'll find answers across this site to some of the biggest and most frequent questions.

Take a look at some of the questions people have already asked, and do get in touch if you want to know something that we haven't answered.

We've also provided some links to other organisations who might be able to help with specific queries.

Ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice and/or discrimination against people based on their age.

It affects people of all ages and can have a profoundly damaging impact on us as we get older.

There are three main types of ageism:

  1. Institutional ageism is when ageism is embedded in laws, rules, social norms, policies and the practices of institutions
  2. Interpersonal ageism which occurs in the interactions between individuals
  3. Self-directed ageism, when a person internalises ageism due to repeated exposure to ageist messages

You can read more detail on our What is Ageism? page

  • That older people all act or think alike, despite people in older age groups having very different experiences and being increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, health and wealth, interests and lifestyles. We also often talk about older people like they are a separate group in society, rather than ageing being a process that’s happening to us all, all of the time.
  • That ageing is predominantly about frailty, decline and dependency, an association that is commonly overestimated. For example, the large majority of us will not get dementia or live in care homes. Just 1 in 10 people aged 65 are defined as frail.
  • That we can't learn new things or become stuck in our ways as we get older, when evidence shows that the presence of over 50s improves workforces, making them more innovative and productive.
  • That we don't contribute to and are a drain on society in later life, when research shows older adults are the most likely to volunteer, vote and provide unpaid care, alongside their contributions to the economy as workers and consumers.

Examples of how and where people experience ageism include:

  • In social situations or online, where negative comments about ageing and older people are normalised or dismissed as harmless banter.
  • In comments we make about ourselves: ‘I’m too old for that’, ‘I’m having a senior moment’, ‘Not at my age’.
  • People being spoken down to and patronised, for example, in the doctors’ surgery or in shops.
  • People applying for jobs but being turned down because of their age, even if not explicitly told this is the reason. Another example in the workplace is older workers not receiving the same opportunities for development and training. 
  • Receiving different medical treatment – for example, receiving medication rather than counselling for a mental health problem. People can also assume they deserve less treatment because of their age - for example, you experience pain in your knee but don’t go to the doctor because you think it’s what you should expect at your age.
  • In the mass media, where older people are not heavily featured in films or adverts, and when they are featured they are reduced to damaging stereotypes.
  • Impact on mental health - Repeated negative portrayals of older people, or the absence of positive portrayals, can lead to poor body image or increased pessimism and anxiety about getting older.
  • Impact on physical health - In some cases, older people receive different medical treatment because of their age or don’t seek help for medical problems because they assume they are a normal part of ageing. Ageism can also lead to people limiting the activities that promote better health such as physical activity (due to negative ideas about appearance, suitability or physical capability). During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw attempts to limit the lifesaving resources available to older people, with ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ decisions being made without consultation with individuals or their families.
  • Impact on finances - Ageism in the workplace means older people not being able to work for as long as they want to. This can lead to people being locked out of employment and potentially facing financial insecurity and poverty in later life.
  • Impact on the economy and wider society - Ageism has a detrimental impact on the workforce -460,000 people aged 50-64 are currently out of work but would like to be in work and ageism is one of the key barriers older workers face. Shutting older people out of the workforce has repercussions for the economy through the effect on income tax and national insurance receipts as well as the welfare bill. It also exacerbates the current skills and labour shortages faced by many industries. Ageism by omission leads to a failure to design and build age-friendly homes and communities (including transport, accessible streets and public spaces and facilities such as toilets) despite the increasing need from an ageing population.

Everyone, at one point in time, will have harboured an ageist thought. It’s the way society has shaped us. 

The important thing is to recognise and be conscious of the fact that we might hold some ageist beliefs and to challenge ourselves and others on the things we say and do that might be part of the problem.  

To find out what ageist ideas you might hold, take part in our quiz

There's lots you can do to challenge ageism as an individual. Taking an active stance against ageism is the only way we can change attitudes. You can do this in the following ways:

  1. Challenge ageism both internally (in both your own thinking and the words that you use) and ageism that you see in everyday conversations. 
  2. Formally complain about ageism when you come across it in the media and advertising - details at the bottom of this page.
  3. If you feel you have experienced direct or indirect discrimination, harassment, or victimisation in the workplace, you should follow your employer’s grievance procedure or contact Acas for advice - details at the bottom of this page.

You'll find other ways to take a stand against ageism across our website.

In spite of the Equality Act 2010 providing protection against unfair treatment to employees because of age, ageism remains one of the most common forms of discrimination. 

And legislation can only go so far.  We each need to actively challenge organisations and individuals who hold ageist views or who discriminate based on age.

Organisations that can help

Age UK 

Independent Age 

  • Independent Age believe that no older person should face financial hardship
  • Their award-winning information and advice services offer free impartial expert advice on money and benefits, housing, and care
  • For more information or to order a free guide, call one of their friendly advisers free on 0800 319 6789 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm)
  • To download a free guide or factsheet, visit 

The Silver Line 

  • Website:
  • Phone:  0800 4 70 80 90 
  • The Silver Line Helpline, run by Age UK, is a free, confidential telephone service for older people.  Providing friendship, conversation and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week


  • Mental healthy charity offering information and signposting to people with mental health conditions and their loved ones 
  • Website:
  • Helpline number: 0300 123 3393 


  • Acas offers free advice and guidance on matters relating to workplace discrimination Independent public body giving impartial advice to employers and employees via their website and helpline alongside help to resolve workplace disputes
  • Website: 
  • Helpline: 0300 123 1100

 Equality Advisory and Support Service

  • Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) can advise you on what steps to take and on the time limits you have to act within for pursuing a discrimination claim
  • Website: 

 Rest Less 

  • An independent website showcasing information, advice and services for people age 50 and above, covering a diverse range of issues including employment and careers, finances and health
  • Website: 

 Careers can Change 

  • A campaign bringing together a variety of services and organisations that support people to change careers in mid-life and beyond
  • Website: 

Citizen's Advice

Advertising regulator 

Press regulator