How Does Ageism Influence the Presence of Diversity in Society?

Ageism influences the presence of diversity in society by devaluing the opinions and experiences of older adults and promoting the stereotype of older adults as dependent on others. Ageism impacts diversity by privileging the capabilities, opinions and interests of younger people over older people.

Ageism is discrimination against a person or group based on their age, and is usually directed towards elderly people. Ageism negatively impacts diversity in society because it promotes the spread of negative stereotypes about middle-aged and elderly adults.

In 2001, researchers at Duke University surveyed 84 people aged 60 and older. Thirty-one percent of respondents said that they experienced not being taken seriously or being ignored due to their age. Children as young as four can internalize age stereotypes, according to psychologist Becca Levy of Yale University. These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the children’s lives by society and by media representations of older adults. In a Senate hearing, Doris Roberts, an elderly actress who co-starred on the television sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” said that senior citizens were portrayed in the media as helpless and unproductive.

Ageism can affect diversity in the workplace and disadvantage older workers. In 2003, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that age discrimination complaints had increased by more than 24 percent compared to the previous two years. According to Harvey Sterns, PhD, director of The University of Akron’s Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology, workers over the age of 40 receive fewer opportunities for training and advancement compared to younger employees.