Ageism -- A process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people based on their age. Ageism is usually focused on two targets: young adults and older adults, but ageism can affect people of any age. Ageism stems from the social construction of ageing through the combination of a range of factors and is manifested in policy, personal values, and the experiences of older/younger people.
It is easy to assume that ageism is a universal phenomenon, but in some cultures, older age may lead to a more valued status or it may not be seen as a source of status at all. However, in Western societies older age is often constructed as a social problem, resulting in loss of status and devalued identity. This has consequences in terms of older people's self-perception, how they are perceived by others, their exclusion from some social activities and relationships, and the approaches taken in policy and practice in health and social services. A number of factors contribute to ageism:
- Economic - Older people are seen as unproductive.
- Cultural - Youth is highly valued; in contrast, older age is associated with decline and decrepitude.
- Interpersonal - Older people may be put at a distance and treated as 'other' in order to protect against fears about aging.
A Dictionary of Social Work anad Social Care by John Harris and Vicky White, Oxford University Press, 2013.