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Britain’s ‘ageism epidemic’ creating a barrier for social care policies, new report warns

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Britain’s “ageist” attitudes are preventing older people from getting the support and opportunities they need to live happy and fulfilling lives, a new report has warned.

McCarthy Stone, a developer and manager of retirement communities, said its research unveils an “ageism epidemic” across the nation, reporting that over a quarter (27%) of over 65s in the UK have been victims of this form of discrimination.

It warned that ageism, which most commonly manifests itself in negative stereotypes and derogatory terminology such as ‘pensioners’, ‘old fogey’ and ‘codger’ – is fuelling continued misrepresentation of older people within society and a lack of understanding about later life.

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McCarthy Stone said this misrepresentation is having a negative impact on the lifestyles of the over 65s.

Over a third (41%) say ageism results in dehumanisation of older people and 31% believe it has a detrimental impact on mental health, while more than half (52%) believe ageism creates a lack of awareness of older age groups’ wants and needs.

Almost half of Brits (43%) believe the government is the number one source for driving everyday ageism and negative perceptions of older people, and 44% of those aged 65 and over feel that as a result, government policies fall short in delivering what our older demographics need.

Only 17% of respondents believe that older communities are given sufficient social care support. The advertising, media and entertainment industries are also deemed guilty of pushing negative perceptions of ageing.

John Tonkiss, chief executive of McCarthy Stone, said: “Our report shows the UK is blighted by ageist attitudes that prevent society from providing the support and opportunities older people need. Ageism dehumanizes our most vulnerable and perpetuates misrepresentation.

“The post-pandemic era presents the opportunity for us all to re-set and champion the needs and wellbeing of older people in society. We must collectively tackle the root causes and impact of ageism and create a society in which later life is filled with joy, happiness and purpose  We are calling on government and society to make positive changes to establish Britain as the best place in which to live and grow old.”

The research underpins McCarthy Stone’s new Vision for Later Life in Britain report – an analysis of the UK’s attitudes to, and experience of, ageing, based on a poll of 5,000 adults – half of which were aged over 65 – and in-depth interviews with later life experts and elderly citizens.

In developing its report, McCarthy Stone interviewed experts in topics related to ageing and later life living. Anna Dixon, CEO of the Centre for Ageing Better, who was one of those interviewed, commented: “The current portrayal of older people in the UK is so negative, with disability and decline unfairly presented as inevitable consequences of ageing. These stereotypes have a hugely detrimental impact, both on individuals and society more broadly.

“But we know that these assumptions don’t reflect the reality and diversity of how people experience later life. We need to see action across society to tackle ageism and create a more age-inclusive culture.””

More than two-fifths (42%) of survey respondents want to see additional funding for support programmes to help older people, with 36% of younger are generations happy for this to be accommodated through extra taxation. Three-quarters (74%) – including more than two-thirds of younger generations ­– believe that older people deserve additional government benefits, such as TV and fuel allowances.

Through its report, McCarthy Stone is calling for ten key policy changes to help tackle the country’s ageist culture.

These include a commitment from the government to publish the long-awaited Social Care White Paper and getting the NHS to deliver a ‘Now, Not Later’ strategy of preventative healthcare.

It also wants to see a greater use of technology to foster intergenerational connectivity and understanding, with a technology and AI fund to develop innovations that bring multiple generations together, and digital education programmes and training to increase access to technology in later life.

Tags : ageing populationageismMcCarthy Stone
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke