Older men and women stand up against ageism around the world

Older activists from more than 45 countries across the world will join the United Nation’s call to “take a stand against ageism” on International Day of Older Persons.


  • Press releases and public statements

Older activists from more than 45 countries across the world will join the United Nation’s call to “take a stand against ageism” on International Day of Older Persons.

Each year on 1 October, HelpAge International’s Age Demands Action campaigners stand up to challenge issues affecting older people, and for 2016 they are taking a stand against ageism, a humiliating form of discrimination that remains socially acceptable.

“In Ethiopia, people say we don’t have any value. I don’t accept that. We shouldn’t accept the negative things people say about older people. We need to start challenging these attitudes,” said Tilahun, Age Demands Action steering group member.

Older men and women are marching, hosting cultural events and meeting with decision-makers to raise awareness of ageism and tackle it in their communities.

In Haiti, older people will be gathering stories of ageism to present to their government to encourage them to fight ageism. In the occupied Palestinian territories, campaigners are visiting government institutions, local communities and NGOs to explain the realities of ageism for older men and women. In Bangladesh, a drama competition is being held to highlight real-life examples of ageism.

Ageism is an issue relevant to everyone. We are all growing older, yet perceptions and assumptions about people based on their age surround us.

Older workers may be overlooked for promotions or forced into retirement when they are capable of staying on. In hospitals, older patients may be put to the back of the queue by staff who believe their ailments are just age-related or a low priority compared to those who are younger.

“I experienced ageism when I was searching for a job. They told me that I was too old and my health would mean I would not be a productive employee,” said Jean Louis, an older man from Haiti.

“They preferred to make their conclusion based on the fact that I am an older person instead of considering my ability to do the job.”

The media reinforces ageism. Youth is glamourised while older people, if featured at all, are portrayed in negative stereotypes, the subject of ridicule for being “senile” or “frail”.

The media is just one way prevailing prejudices and stereotypes about age have become engrained in society to the point where older men and women are unaware of how it is impacting their lives.

“Ageism is a pervasive form of discrimination that can prevent older adults from living fulfilling, meaningful lives and can have a serious impact on an older person’s health and functioning. It is time the world took stronger action to combat it,” said Dr John Beard, Director of World Health Organization’s Ageing and Life Course. 

This year’s ADA Global campaign closely links up with the World Health Organization (WHO). In May 2016, the World Health Assembly adopted the Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health. It included a resolution that called on the WHO Director-General to develop, in cooperation with partners, “a global campaign to combat ageism in order to add value to local initiatives, achieve the ultimate goal of enhancing the day-to-day experience of older people and optimise policy responses”.

“Ageism is a driving force behind the denial of older people’s rights. While other forms of discrimination are prohibited by law, age discrimination is often not, including under international human rights law,” said Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive Officer at HelpAge International.

“We want governments to accept that a new UN convention on the rights of older people is critical to changing ageist attitudes and protecting the rights of older people. To ensure they understand the importance of such a treaty, we must bring older people’s experiences of ageism to their attention.”


International Media Contacts:

Ben Small, Digital Communications and Media Officer, HelpAge International

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7628 
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7746 639 736
Email: ben.small@helpage.org   
Skype: ben.small.helpage

Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive Officer at HelpAge International, is available to interview. Read his bio here: http://www.helpage.org/who-we-are/leadership-group/

Regional spokespeople also available.

Photos, case studies and video:


About HelpAge International

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations – the only one of its kind in the world.


About Age Demands Action

Age Demands Action (ADA) is a campaigning platform for older people that helps to challenge assumptions and prejudices and supports campaigners to push for policy changes to better improve their lives. Every year we support older campaigners and ADA partners around the world to organise campaigns and events to bring greater awareness to the issues many older people face.


Resources for ADA Global 2016:

World Health Organization definition of ageism

“Stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age; ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs.” – World Health Organization’s World Report on Ageing and Health, pg 226

Read the Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health: http://www.who.int/ageing/global-strategy/en/

World Health Organization Geneva event

HelpAge CEO Justin Derbyshire will be speaking at the WHO’s “Taking a Stand Against Ageism” event on 30 September in Geneva, Switzerland. He will be speaking alongside Kate Gilmore, Deputy-High Commissioner for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.