Poor and disabled more likely to face ageism, over-50s survey suggests

People with disabilities or those who are struggling financially can be much more likely to face ageism, according to research.

The Centre for Ageing Better said its findings show people can be “hit with a one-two punch of ageism alongside other forms of discrimination” which it added can increase the inequality they experience as they get older.

As part of the latest research for its State of Ageing report, some 1,389 over-50s were surveyed across England.

While less than one in 10 (8%) people in this age group who classed themselves as financially comfortable reported experiencing ageism at least sometimes in the past year, this rose to almost a third (32%) for those who said they were struggling financially.

The survey, which was carried out online and by phone late last summer by the National Centre for Social Research for the Centre for Ageing Better, also found a big difference when it came to disability.

Four in 10 (41%) people who have long-term conditions or illnesses affecting daily activities said they had experienced ageism at least sometimes, compared with 13% of people living without such conditions.

Ethnicity was also found to be a factor, with just over a quarter (26%) of people from black or ethnic minority backgrounds reporting experiencing ageism at least sometimes in the past year compared with less than a fifth (18%) of white people in the same age bracket.

Overall, just under half (45%) of people surveyed said they had experienced ageism in the previous year, with more women reporting being affected than men.

Some 47% of women said they had experienced ageism at least once in the previous 12 months, compared to 43% of men.

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Our latest research starkly highlights just how embedded in society ageism is, and the potential it has to cause significant harm to older individuals and to widen inequalities.

“Discrimination based on more than one characteristic has the power to increase the harm and impact of inequality. Discrimination on the grounds of age alone has been shown to be associated with a measurable decline in health.

“Our research also shows how groups of people can be hit with a one-two punch of ageism alongside other forms of discrimination, adding extra barriers and layers of inequality as they age.

“The combination of ageism and ableism, for example, has been shown to be very damaging for disabled people.”

The charity launched its Age Without Limits campaign this year in a bid to change the way people think about ageing and to make society “more age-inclusive”.

The research comes just weeks after the Government announced detail on plans to reform welfare to get more people back into work.

But Rishi Sunak’s proposals – including benefits being stopped if someone does not comply with conditions set by a work coach, a pledge to “tighten” the work capability assessment (WCA) and reform pf personal independence payments (PIP) – faced criticism, amid accusations that they are a “full-on assault on disabled people”.

Responding to the research by the Centre for Ageing Better, Mikey Erhardt, a campaigner at Disability Rights UK, said the group was not surprised by the survey findings, criticising recent rhetoric which he said “demonises disabled and older people and the support we need at every turn”.

He said: “We all want the right support when we need it. Hostile rhetoric is not just nasty words; it leads to concrete harm for all of us, from dangerous policy decisions to ignorance of our desires for change.

“We hope this research can be a rallying call that more must be done so that everyone can participate in an equitable society built on mutual respect, dignity and safety.”