Magoosh GRE

Is britain today an ageist society?

| December 4, 2012


Ageism can be defined as “discrimination against people on the grounds of age;

Specifically, discrimination against the elderly” (Collins 2008)

Ageism is a very controversial subject.  It is one of the four components that make up equality within our society: these being race, gender, class and age. The difference with age is that it happens to everyone, whatever their race, gender or class. Everyone will inevitably get ‘old’ and at some time in their life everyone will experience ageism. It was written in the Independent that “Ageism, affecting both the young and old, is the most widely experienced prejudice in Britain, according to the first major study into age discrimination.” (Connor ,S 2005)

There are many different viewpoints surrounding this subject. Some may agree that Britain today is an ageist society, however others might disagree. Ageism can be in many forms. It may be discrimination against the younger generation; for example generalizations about drugs or crime based on age, or the most common form of discrimination which is against the older generation and the elderly.  In everyday life social judgements are made based on age. For instance we would not expect as a society to see a 60 year old at a nightclub this isn’t the social ‘norm’. In society we are categorized by our age by the grouping of childhood, youth, adolescence, middle aged and lastly old aged.

The media plays a huge role in influencing the perceptions and thoughts of people within our society. The BBC has demonstrated ageist in the treatment of their female employees. This is apparent in the case of Miriam O’Reilly who was dropped from the popular TV programme Countryfile.  She was axed at the age of 53 for a younger presenter when it was moved to a prime time slot. In 2009. Discrimination was shown towards O’Reilly on the ground of her age.  She was offered a can of black hair dye to ‘cover a light patch on her head’. She was also warned that High Definition TV would ‘pick out her wrinkles’ and asked if she thought it was ‘time for Botox’. According to statistics there are only 1 in 10 women working on TV that are over 50 years old (skill-set). The medium of TV as well as magazine and film all contribute to Britain being an ageist society as this example quite clearly demonstrates.

It is a fact that many older women on TV are using different treatments to help delay the sign of ageing and to look more youthful. Is the dismissal of the ‘older’ people on TV due to Britain being an ageist society? Or is it just a natural progression in the world of show-business.  Nick Ross, a former presenter on Crime watch for 23 years was interviewed by channel 4 news and asked what he thought of the case of Miriam O’Reilly. He stated in his interview that when a producer wants to refresh a show, they have limited options therefore “we all have to change the furniture”. He then goes on to say “it is show-business after all” This interview although a little blunt does state the point that new talent will inevitably be younger;  everyone is attracted to a younger face when a show is being ‘refreshed’. This isn’t necessarily saying that Britain is an ageist society. It is saying that it is a fact of life.

An argument to agree with the view point that Britain is an ageism society is the problem of ageism in the workplace. Due to the scale of the problem within our society, the Government made Age discrimination in the workplace unlawful in 2006.  A bill for Equality has also been passed and is expected to come into force in 2012. Even with ageism in the workplace being unlawful, it still remains a major problem;

A recent study by The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) found that 73% of the over 50s age group believe that employers see them as being too old, and because of this and other factors, older workers are often the first to go in a recession .

Figures show that the recession has caused a sharp increase in older people saying they were made redundant -up to 47 per cent from 32 per cent – in the period between October 2008 – May 2009, as compared to those surveyed before the economy started to deteriorate, January – September 2008.

The figures do not look good, with some 360,000 people aged 50 plus now looking for work. (Jones,M 2009)

This example clearly shows that although laws are in place to combat ageism in the workplace, it is still a problem and does highlight that Britain is an ageist society; whether it be towards older people in the workplace being classed as “over the hill”, or younger people being managed differently or being paid less for doing the same job as an “older” person.

A contrasting argument to contest the view that Britain is an ageist society is in the Case of the company B&Q. A quarter of their overall staff-force is aged over 50. This Company believes that the older generation have a vital role to play in the workplace due to their life skills. The company’s diversity and engagement manager Leon Foster-Hill says;

The older workers employed in our stores have greater life experience and a true willingness to work, which means they can pass on their knowledge and skills to customers and younger members of staff.(Clarke, H 2009)

This example shows a large company with a staff-force with a range of different ages to best suite their business needs and give the customer’s confidence in their products. They do not seem to show any ageism towards their staff and don’t adopt the generalization that ‘more youthful is more useful’ (Dominic Abrahams professor of social psychology at the University of Kent). According to research many other countries which have already scrapped the fixed retirement age are prospering. This research suggests that the more people in the labour market means there is more activity, more income, more growth.

Ed Davey- the Employment Relations Minister stated in an article in the The Guardian 2011 “there are already around 850,000 workers aged over 65 in the UK, and there is no evidence performance or productivity suddenly declines afterthe age of 652”.

An additional reason for us to agree with the statement that Britain is an ageist society is by looking at the NHS service in Britain. It was reported in the Daily Mail  that there has been “alarming new evidence that older people are far less likely to receive a proper diagnosis and essential treatment.” The article goes on to say that “Many elderly patients miss out on the scans, drugs and even basic health advice routinely given to the young. Some doctors decide it is simply not worth the bother once patients pass a certain age.”   (Chapman, J 2009)

This example is one of many that relate to the old and elderly being treated like second class citizens within the health service. This is ironic as they will have contributed the most to this service. This instance does exhibit that Britain is an ageist society.

An opposing view to this is that we only have certain money and resources therefore; we need to rationalise the decisions we make within the health service. As a society we are living for longer therefore we are now having to reassess our attitudes to ageing. The problem of our ageing population was addressed in an article in the Daily Mail. This was with reference to information released from the Department for Work and Pensions;“With many millions now expected to spend a third of their lives in retirement,       it’s a massive crisis in the ­making. This was the projection that an     extraordinary 17 per cent of those living in Britain today — that’s 10.6million people — will survive to celebrate their 100th birthdays.
Add the further depressing fact, ­supported by evidence from the UK and the         U.S., that with longer lives will come at least an extra year spent immobile or in poor health.” (Utley,T 2010)

This example shows that difficult decisions will need to be made within the health service. Is this ageist?  Or is it just common sense?. It is a fact that older people have a longer recovery time after operations and treatment therefore this may be seen as a  drain on the health service. Statistics state that “22.5 per cent of our entire economic output goes on ‘age-related expenditure’, such as pensions and the NHS. By 2050, this is expected to rise to a crippling 27.1 per cent” With the problem of our ageing population, these issues need to be addressed.

Britain is an ageist society. This can be seen in all aspects of our society from younger people being denied job opportunities or promotions due to ‘lack of knowledge’, or ‘older’ people being denied medical treatment when they are passed a certain age.  Ageism is detrimental to our society and our economy. We need to embrace and utilise the skills of our multigenerational society to ensure we prosper. The demographics of our society are changing and with our ageing population, provisions need to be put in place to make ageism a thing of the past. The word ‘old’ will be redefined . We need to forget the question of age and build a society for all ages without discrimination.

The current government strategy to deal with an ageing population involves building a society for all ages. This includes preparing for later life and  participating during later life. We need to have the right support and public      services in place and ensure the ageing population has a voice.(crown 2009)

Essay Plan

Is Britain today an ageist society?


  • Definition of ageism
  • Basic outline on ageism in British society
  • Address/identify the arguments for and against Britain being an ageist society

Main Body

1          FOR:

Point:  The Media hugely influences the thoughts and perceptions of society

Evidence: Miriam O’Reilly – case of age discrimination by the BBC 2011

  • Include quotes “to cover a light patch on her head”. “Pick out her wrinkles”. “time for Botox”

Explanation:  This example shows that Britain is an ageist society as we the public would rather see a younger face on TV according to the BBC


Point: As its TV- its show business- is seeing younger people on TV just natural progression

Evidence: Interview with Nick Ross

  • Include quotes “Changing furniture” “it is show business after all”

Explanation: Ross himself was a victim of ageism by the BBC (Crime watch) it is show business therefore it is to be expected. It is a fact of life

2          FOR:

Point: Age Discrimination in the workplace was deemed unlawful in 2006- but still remains a problem

Evidence: Study by Age & Employment network showing that older people are more likely to be made redundant with the recession

  • Include statistics from the study

Explanation: Even though age discrimination is unlawful – there is discrimination in the workplace. Both towards older people- this was shown in the study but also towards the younger generation too


Point: Age can be considered beneficial in the workplace – life experience

Evidence:  B&Q a quarter of their workforce is over 50 years old

Explanation:  Older people are more knowledgeable and have more life experience – fact. Therefore they are essential to our growing ageing society. “More people, more activity, more income, more growth”

3   FOR

Point: Old people are made to feel like 2nd class citizens in the NHS service.

Evidence: Article in the Daily mail suggesting that patients over a certain age do not receive basic healthcare.

  • Include quote “Many elderly patients miss out on the scans, drugs and even basic health advice routinely given to the young”

Explanation: Once a person is past a certain age the NHS seems to deny treatment or don’t acknowledge treatment is needed so as to keep within their budget.


Point: we are an ageing society as we are all living for longer therefore we do need to reassess our attitudes towards ageing.

Evidence:  17% of Britain (10.6 million) will live to be 100 – this is the projected forecast for the future.

  • Include quote “ age related expenditure is set to rise from 22.5% to 27.1% by 2050”

Explanation: This will inevitably be a drain on our society therefore action needs to be taken. Modern science can create miracles but where do we “draw the line”


  • Britain is an ageist society- highlight the different aspects of ageism
  • Acknowledge that age needs to be redefined
  • Include quote on government strategy to address our ageing population


Clarke,H (2009) 95 year old Syd still working at B&Q.Hounslow:The Hounslow Chronicle[online] Available from:  [accessed 25 January 2009]

Collins (2008) Collins English Dictionary. Seventh Edition.[s.l]Collins

Utley,T (2010). With my taste for the bottle and Marlboro Reds, I doubt I’ll reach 100 – but I worry for those of you who will. London: Daily Mail. [online] Available from:

Guardian (2011) Default retirement at 65 to be phased out. London: Guardian [online] Available from:

Connor, S (2005) Ageism ‘bigger problem that racism or sexism’. London: The Independent. [online] Available from:

Chapman, J. (2009) NHS bans ageism: Elderly patients must receive same attention as the young. London. Dailymail. [Online] Available from:                                                       

Soloman Training. (2011). Age discrimination in the workplace. [s.l.]. Soloman Training [online] Available from:

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Category: Free Essays, History