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Determining the True Scope of Ageism Throughout Ireland

Resource type: Grantee Story

Ageism is the most common form of workplace discrimination occurring in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Research has found that one in five people experience some form of age-based discrimination at the workplace. But ageism is not confined to employment.

Ageism affects older adults throughout Irish society in a number of ways, including, for example in:

  • Health and social care, where they can encounter age-based limitations on health care and other benefits
  • Employment, where they can encounter a prejudicial retirement age
  • Financial services, where they can encounter limitations on their access to insurance
  • Volunteering and lifelong learning, where they can encounter limitations on their access to these opportunities
  • Education and training, where they can encounter limitations on loans for higher education.

These are only a few examples of how age discrimination is currently affecting older adults.

Purpose and Impact of the Grant

Using an Atlantic grant, the Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive (ARK) undertook a baseline survey aimed at documenting the depth and breadth of age-based discrimination in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The ARK survey measured several key factors, including:

  • the prevalence of ageism against older adults;
  • the awareness level of ageism among the general population and key segments, such as older adults;
  • general societal attitudes towards the older population; and
  • attitudes towards equality of opportunity for older people in key social policy areas.

The ARK survey uncovered important data that can be used to develop, refine and implement programmes to combat ageism. For example, the survey found:

  • There is a widespread perception that older people are treated less favourably throughout Irish society because of their age.
  • There is a strong belief that the state does not do enough for older people and a particular concern about protecting older adults from crime.
  • Significant portions of the population report that they or a friend or family member have been treated less favourably on grounds of age by the health care system.
  • There are serious concerns about ageism in employment and strong support for making such discrimination illegal.
  • While there is some support for outlawing mandatory retirement, there is also limited enthusiasm for working past the state retirement age – a finding that has implications for pension policies.

Overall, the survey documented a need to give policies that combat ageism a more central position in broader strategies addressing discrimination.