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What does ageism look like?

Ageism is a growing and pervasive issue in the country, with recent research showing seven in ten older Australians believe ageism is a serious problem.

Last updated: March 22nd 2023
Ageism affect many older Australians, often in ways that are difficult to identify. [Source: iStock]

Ageism affect many older Australians, often in ways that are difficult to identify. [Source: iStock]

Key points

  • Ageism impacts many older people in different ways and seven in ten older Australians believe it is a serious problem
  • There are a number of common ways ageism presents in the areas of employment, healthcare, housing and community interactions
  • Knowing what ageism looks like can help you to call it out when it happens and raise awareness of the issue

This research, conducted by RedBridge Group for the EveryAGE Counts national campaign against ageism, also found that people aged in their 50s and 60s were more likely to think of ageism as a serious problem than people in their 80s and 90s.

Almost four in ten (37 percent) of people in their 60s have experienced ageism in the past year, while 26 percent of all Australians over the age of 50 have experienced ageism recently.

Head of EveryAGE Counts, Dr Marlene Krasovitsky, says everyone should take notice of this research because it shows just how much of an issue ageism is for older adults in Australia.

“The way most polling has traditionally lumped ‘older Australians’ together into one monolithic group is ageist in, and of, itself. What this research shows is that attitudes to ageism and experiences of ageism vary significantly across a very diverse ‘over-50’ group,” Dr Krasovitsky explains.

“By zooming in on different age brackets among older Australians, we find that ageism affects people in different ways.

“For example, this polling shows us that Australians in their 50s and 60s are likely to encounter ageism at work or when applying for jobs.

“Those in their 80s and 90s, conversely, are more likely to report experiencing ageism in the health system, either by being denied treatments or by being ignored in favour of a carer.”

There are many ways you might experience ageism in everyday life, so this article explains some examples of ageism you might recognise across the areas of employment, housing, health and interactions with family members, friends and people in the community.

Knowing what ageism looks like can help you to call it out when it happens and raise awareness of the issue wherever you experience this form of discrimination.


According to the EveryAge Counts research, ageism in employment against older employees is a surprisingly common form of discrimination in the workplace.

Of those surveyed, 28 percent of the 50-59 year old age group say their applications for jobs have been rejected because of their age, while 25 percent of those in their 50s and 60s say they have been made to feel like they are too old for their work.

These experiences of ageism in the workplace could be due to comments from current or potential employers, the opinions of colleagues, or even interactions with customers or clients.

Other signs of ageism you might encounter in employment include:

  • A requirement for a physical fitness test, particularly one that is not related to your ability to do the work
  • Getting passed over for a promotion due to your age
  • Being asked questions in an employment interview about your age
  • Being excluded from team bonding activities or work functions due to your age

Some organisations in Australia have also been shown to perpetuate a belief that older people are unable to pick up new skills or do not want to learn new things.


High-quality healthcare is vital to living the best life possible, but ageism is often seen throughout healthcare settings.

EveryAGE Counts found that eight percent of 50-59 year olds say they have been denied health services or treatment because of their age, and 20 percent of those aged over 90 say the same.

Another indicator of ageism in this research was that 11 percent of people over the age of 50 say doctors and healthcare workers talk past them to their companion or carer, and among those over 90 years old, that figure rises to 27 percent.

You may also experience ageism if:

  • You have to wait longer for healthcare treatment because you are triaged as a lower priority case due to your age
  • You are denied the full range of healthcare options for your health conditions
  • You are not given all the information relating to your situation, because a healthcare practitioner decides you do not need all the information due to your age
  • A healthcare professional assumes you would not want to be resuscitated in an emergency

If your right to access healthcare on an equal basis with other Australians is impacted in any way due to your age, this is also ageism.


Having a roof over your head is a fundamental right, so ageism can appear when this right is impacted by the way others treat you because of their views on your age.

Examples of ageism in housing include the following experiences, if they are due to your age:

  • Having a rental application denied
  • Having a housing loan denied
  • Being made to feel like you should move into a nursing home when you don’t actually need that level of care
  • Insurance costing more than what a younger person in the same situation is paying
  • Additional fees or charges that a younger person does not have to pay

Families of older people may also try to push them into housing situations they do not want out of a belief the family should be concerned about the safety of their older loved one at home, even when that concern is not based on a proven need for help.

Other forms of ageism

As ageism is so prevalent in Australian society, it is also noticeable in everyday interactions with family members, friends and other younger people in the community.

For example, 36 percent of over-50s say they have experienced others assuming they cannot understand or learn new technology because of their age.

Twenty-one percent of over-50s say they experienced other people insisting on doing things for them that they are actually quite capable of doing on their own.

Ageism can even impact on your ability to feel like you are contributing to a conversation or situation, as 28 percent of over-50s say they have been ignored or made to feel invisible.

Why should I know what ageism looks like?

Raising awareness of the many ways in which ageism can present helps others to understand the impact this discrimination has on an older person.

By speaking up and calling ageism out when you see it, you are educating people on how their view of age, even when it is an unconscious bias, affects a large group of Australians who deserve to live free from discrimination.

“Ageism is pervasive, but often hidden. The only way we can end it is to bring it out of the shadows,” explained Dr Krasovitsky.

“Often older Australians feel powerless when we encounter ageism. However, if we know what it looks like and name it, we can take constructive actions in response. In this way each of us can help build an Australia without ageism.”

The more people understand what ageism is and how it presents, the better opportunities there will be for older workers, the better access to healthcare will be for older people, the more understanding there will be in housing and the more interactions in the community will improve for older people.

Where else have you experienced ageism? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:
The ongoing issues with ageism
Myths about getting old and ageing
The freedom of growing older
How to empower older people
What is an aged care advocate?


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