16 March 2015

Discrimination based on age is common. Still we don’t often talk about ageism. LiU is taking part in an international project aimed at shedding light on the problem of ageism in Sweden.

Prejudice based on age, or ageism, is a common type of discrimination. It takes place in our homes, at work and in the media. Healthcare patients may not be offered healthcare services based on their age – but there are age limits for procedures such as screening.

”Why is it considered fair to give a 40-year-old a new liver, but not an 80-year-old? Why don’t we see elderly people on TV? Negative discrimination based on age is often not even seen as discrimination, but as ’natural,’” says Andreas Motel-Klingebiel, professor at Nisal, the National Institute for the Study of Ageing and Later Life, at Linköping University.

Reduced cognitive and physical abilities

For people who are subject to ageist attitudes, this can lead to reduced cognitive and physical abilities.

Together with his colleague Annika Taghizadeh Larsson, he is in the start-up phase of a project aimed at raising awareness of ageism in Sweden. The project is part of a European collaboration, a ”COST action”, involving researchers from thirty countries. Linköping University is the Swedish hub for the project. Apart from outreach to decision-makers and the general public, the project aim is to increase scientific knowledge in the field of ageism.

”By creating an interdisciplinary network between Swedish researchers who work with these issues, we can see what has to be done. The fact is, there is an urgent need for a new generation of researchers in this field,” says Andreas Motel-Klingbiel.

Also positive ageism

But all discrimination does not have to be negative; there is also positive ageism – for instance that people of a certain age are granted a pension or are exempted from having to work.

”Provided they don’t want to work, that is. Swedish employers have a fairly negative view of older workers, and this is one of the things we want to change.”

Published 2015-03-16