Pushback ageism

By Elizabeth Drury

The words we use have an effect. The u3a’s recent surveys show that 2 in 5 older adults have been on the receiving end of ageist language. Elizabeth Drury, Head of Policy and Communications shares how the U3A are combating this.

Litter picking: Brunswick, West Hove and Portslade u3a

According to the World Health Organisation, “Pervasive ageist stereotypes of older people as uniformly frail, burdensome and dependent are not supported by evidence and limit society’s ability to appreciate and release the potential human and social resources inherent in older populations.”

Whether it is in the workplace or beyond, we have a collective responsibility to challenge negative stereotypes and assumptions about becoming older. Let’s celebrate the positive contribution that older adults make to our organisations and communities.

So what are we doing at the U3A?

Our Pushback Ageism Campaign

To counteract the deeply embedded attitudes in society towards older adults we launched our Pushback Ageism Campaign to challenge the preconceptions of what ageing means.

In 2020 we questioned 1,000 older adults. We found that two in five (43 per cent) had been on the receiving end of patronising language in relation to their age and almost two in five (37 per cent) have been addressed with names they say are ageist. In parallel, a poll of over 2,000 members of the general public people, revealed that over half (53 per cent) admit to regularly using words that were deemed patronising by older people: (31 per cent) confessed to using ‘fogey’, (27 per cent) have used ‘biddy’ and (18 per cent) use the term ‘past it’ to describe older people.

This year we put out another survey questioning nearly 6,000 older adults together with 2.000 from the general public about perceptions on age and fashion.  Two-thirds of older people say they feel they’re expected to wear certain clothes by society  Over half of the wider public admit they think older people should dress their age and should stop wearing miniskirts at 44 years old, skinny jeans at 49 and baseball caps at 56

Whether it is in the workplace or beyond, we have a collective responsibility to challenge negative stereotypes and assumptions about becoming older.

About U3A

At u3a we believe that a world of new experiences is open to everyone as an older adult. Our movement is built on the value of shared activity and learning where retirement is not an ending but a beginning and age has no impact on the opportunity for you to keep developing your interests and make a positive contribution to the communities around you.

We believe that in retirement you have a world of opportunity ahead – whoever you are and whatever your circumstances.

In fact, our 450,000 members are the lived experience of the major benefits of staying active in later life. u3a is a movement of vibrant and energetic people who forge new interests, make new friends and develop and extend talents. Members are making the most of life by continuing their educational, social or creative interests in a friendly and encouraging atmosphere.

And this positive attitude to ageing has tangible benefits to society. Our mutual learning model is low cost and has a life and existence of its own. A world where everyone – whatever your age is acknowledged for the tangible contribution you can make.

Working with This Age Thing

Now u3a is working with This Age Thing and the Design Age Institute to put older adult voices at the heart of design. Watch this space. Join This Age Thing to make sure you are kept up to date with what are planning next.

East Renfrewshire u3a

More Information

We want to hear from you


Next Steps: Install the Survey Add-On

This form requires the Gravity Forms Survey Add-On. Important: Delete this tip before you publish the form.
Strongly disagreeDisagreeNeutralAgreeStrongly agree

This story has been categorised as:


Have your say

Share your views in the comments below

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *