Aspect of age discrimination

The psychological side of age discrimination emanates from the biological perspective and has very close links with the social aspect of age discrimination. Discrimination from a biological perspective is seen as the most common, and most basic, rejecting someone because of their physical appearance and attributes. However this form of rejection in many cases prompts a psychological response which exacerbates the situation further. Particularly in the employment areas, older people are told from very early on that they are unlikely to get the job they are seeking.

Job centres even after policy changes of 1991 and 1992 which said candidates should be referred irrespective of age still hold high levels of age discrimination (Walker, A and Maltby, T 1995). Women again face heavy opposition, as for many of them, they will have been playing the traditional role of housewife, raising the family etc. and will have very little skills available. Nearly all companies reject them on their lack of skills and blame under funding for not being able to put them on training schemes.

Psychologically this has a huge impact upon them as they begin to feel useless, and in the long run, stop looking for jobs and reside themselves to the fact that they're second best behind the younger generation. Some stores such as B&Q and Tescos run recruitment drives just for the older generation but its on a very limited basis, and again is promoting age discrimination but this time against younger employees (Walker, A and Maltby, T 1995).

Again as with the biological perspective, the psychological perspective plays a huge role in health and social care causing many people to stop receiving treatment and for some not seeking treatment at all. The rejection of men and women over the age of 70 for many routine check ups when they are at highest risk of catching diseases deters many elders from going for the rest of their lives. For many older people, they assume that over time they will get old and frail, their body's immune system will be able to defend against fewer diseases and in time they will grow ill.

Even though in many cases as illustrated above, with extra government funding and extra encouragement, more old people's lives could be saved, little is done to change the psychological damage which has been inflicted upon them. The psychological analysis of age discrimination also has a large social side to it as well. The newer investigations into such discrimination have found that ageing is not just biological but in fact age is a socially constructed ideology with psychological and social perspectives playing key roles.

In particular, the 'Disengagement theory' biologist in perspective places a huge emphasis on the role of society and how in later life, the elderly and society "mutually withdraw" from one another. The addition of a social perspective proves why such discrimination occurs and shows that society has created its very own stereotype of how the elderly should live, passing this down through each generation thus, maintaining a high level of age discrimination (http://www. infm. ulst. ac. uk/~chris/psy302lec25.htm).

The baby boom shortly after the war has meant that early parts of the 21st century have seen a shift in the ratio of children to the elderly, with there being vast numbers of older people compared to children. This had meant that age discrimination seems to be on a much larger scale as it is discriminating against larger numbers of people. Even with an increased proportion of the elderly within the population, this has had no effect on the stereotype which has been created around them.

To the younger generations today, the elderly are a group who are dependent upon their pensions, dependent upon family, providing they have one, and who go on trips to garden centres and day trips to the sea side etc. Although views on the older generations will alter between different groups of people, the main point remains the same, that a stereotyped group has been created which receives huge levels of age discrimination.

The disengagement theory seems to promote this stereotype by saying that at old age a person's social circle becomes increasingly narrow, and that they begin to relinquish many roles that they have played during their adulthood. At no stage does it seem to suggest the idea that the elderly may continue to work and earn a living and as a result has had many critics arguing that in fact a person's decision to relinquish roles and withdraw from society is actually voluntary and does not apply to ever person (http://www. infm. ulst. ac. uk/~chris/psy302lec25. htm).

Although the disengagement theory does help to further explain the psychological and social aspects of age discrimination, it is in itself a theory which promotes age discrimination, and continues to create a stereotype which means that age discrimination will continue on into the future. Although the government are planning to introduce legislation in 2006 stemming from the EC anti-discrimination directive, with such theories as the disengagement theory in place and current stereotyping, it will take huge pressures from the older generation if any real changes are to be made (http://www. uk/relations/law/discrimination/age. html).

Age discrimination in the UK only seems to create tension when it is on a negative basis. Positive discrimination does also occur which receives much less scrutiny and fewer calls for abandonment. When it comes to employment and health care many policies are actually in place to make life far more favourable for the elderly. In employment as mentioned above, Tescos and B&Q ran many recruitment drives just for older people, and in health care, many people over the age of 60 receive free prescriptions and other health care such as free eye tests etc.

On the socio-economic side, many people receive free council tax, free bus passes and free rent. Although this does begin to tread a thin line, in that once you reach retirement age and you receive your pension certain perks such as free medical care are all inclusive, the principle does remain the same that these are discriminating against the younger generations and benefiting the elderly (Tinker 1996).

The way society has been moulded has meant that younger people never feel that the elderly are discriminating against them when they receive free health care and prescriptions. The fact that the society assumes that with old age comes such treatment is again a form of stereotyping, and is the leading factor as to why such age discrimination occurs and will to continue to occur in to the near future. Age discrimination is a huge problem and is totally unacceptable.

The way society has created the elderly as a homogenous group who are stereotypically adverse to work and who spend all day relaxing has meant that age discrimination has been allowed to continue un challenged. With such little legislation around to combat it, and with no proposed changes until 2006 it seems that no matter how unacceptable it is, not much can be done about it. Positive discrimination does much less damage than negative discrimination, but the principally they both cause the same social harm.

It is clear that the underlying problem is the way that society views such discrimination. The public's opinion on how the lives of the elderly should run is universal, and any changes to that seem to break this stereotypical code which has been made for them. Even such theories as the disengagement theory are flawed as it holds its own discriminatory views on how the elderly mutually withdraw from society. Having such universality of opinions makes it hard for any changes to be made, and makes the chances of any breakthroughs in 2006 very bleak.

Even positive discrimination is unacceptable as well. It receives much less scrutiny and causes fewer problems yet again it holds the same principles of negative discrimination but reversed. Just because fewer people object to positive discrimination and society has been made to accept certain perks for the elderly, it still breaks moral codes and should be deemed just as unacceptable as negative discrimination.

No matter whether or not individuals benefit from either form of discrimination, they are both morally wrong and unacceptable in a democratic society. Although change is unlikely to be forthcoming society needs to wise up and realise certain actions are of a discriminatory measure and are totally unacceptable in a socially inclusive and equal society.


  • McGarry, J and Arthur, A (1999) Can Over 75 Health Checks Identify Unmet Needs, Nursing standard. Walker, A and Maltby, T (1997) Ageing Europe, Buckingham, Open University Press.