Charities urged to stop using ‘ageist language and stereotypes’

Charities are too often using ageist language and stereotyping older people as being sad, vulnerable and lonely, according to guidance being published today.

The guidance has been released by charity Centre for Ageing Better and is urging the voluntary sector to “help shift ageist stereotypes and language used in public life”.

It says that the use of such stereotypes “harms people and their prospects in later life” by too often associating ageing with decline and ill health” as well as being portrayed as “fail, vulnerable, and dependent”.

The Centre said: “While ageing-focused charities use more nuanced and supportive language, loneliness often dominates the narrative, and tends to be presented as an inevitable part of later life.

“The language and imagery used in fundraising campaigns also tends to be inherently negative – focusing on sad or vulnerable older people in need of help – and risks feeding into negative stereotypes of ageing and older people in wider society.”

It adds that ageism impacts on older people’s wellbeing and shapes how people feel about their ageing process.

Another concern is that older people are being “pitted” against younger people in “boomer vs millennial narratives around competition for resources”.

The centre’s guide, called Challenging Ageism, aims to support charities and other organisations to focus on positive imagery and language around ageing and “embrace realistic and diverse images of later life”.

It also urges charities to use terminology that older people prefer such as “older” rather than “old” or “elderly”.

“We are really pleased to be launching this guide which we hope will be an invaluable resource for a range of organisations to contribute to tackling harmful stereotypes about ageing and instead promote a more realistic and positive view of later life,” said Carole Easton, chief executive of Centre for Ageing Better.

“The pandemic has highlighted the pernicious impact of seeing those in later life as a burden, a problem to be hidden away, or a homogenous vulnerable group.

“These outdated attitudes are holding us back as a society from making the most of our longer lives. At the Centre for Ageing Better, we want to bring about the culture shift we need to eradicate ageism – we hope that this guide will help many other organisations to join us in this mission.”

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