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Age discrimination is defined as being treated differently, often negatively, because of your age. It can be anything from being spoken to differently to losing your job because your employer deems you ‘too old’. According to Age UK, the number of people aged 65 and over is projected to rise by over 40 per cent (40.77%) in the next 17 years to over 16 million. By 2040, it’s predicted that nearly one in four people in the UK (24.2%) will be aged 65 or over; however, older people still face age discrimination. In England, 36.8% of people aged 65 and over have experienced perceived age discrimination, and for those aged between 70 and 79 this figure rises to 37.2%.  

What the Equality Act says about age discrimination

  The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because:
  • you are (or are not) a certain age or in a certain age group
  • someone thinks you are (or are not) a specific age or age group, this is known as discrimination by perception
  • you are connected to someone of a particular age or age group, this is known as discrimination by association
Age groups can often be large and ambiguous, for example, ‘youths’ could include anyone from 9-22-year-olds, and ‘elderly people’ could be anyone above the age of 60. To complicate this further, there are numerous events where age discrimination IS lawful.    

When age discrimination is lawful

  • When belonging to a particular age group is essential for a job: this is called an occupational requirement.
  • When an organisation is taking affirmative action to encourage or develop people in an age group that is under-represented or disadvantaged in a role or activity.
  • When your employer has set a compulsory retirement age that it can clearly justify in respect of your role: this is known as objective justification.
  • When a service provider is making age-related concessions and benefits. For example, a cinema can offer over 60s cheap tickets or a GP can offer flu jabs to over 65s.
  • When the financial services sector (e.g. banks and insurance companies) is using age limits when deciding what services to offer.

How age discrimination affects older people

  Age discrimination can not only take away opportunities from older people but also make them feel negative about themselves and lower their self-confidence. Age UK has found that 60% of older people in the UK agree that age discrimination exists in the daily lives of older people, which shows that it affects a massive amount of people every day. They also uncovered that 52% of seniors think that those who plan services do not pay enough attention to the needs of older people. The elderly feel discrimination in many aspects of their lives; for example, 68% of people agree that politicians see older people as a low priority, so they can often feel neglected when big decisions are made in government. It can also cause concerns and worries about the future, as over half of adults agree that when you reach very old age, people tend to start treating you like a child.    

How can we improve?

The most important thing we can do is be considerate and respectful to everyone no matter what their age. 76% of older people believe the country fails to make good use of the skills and talents of older people; therefore a great way to start improving is to begin utilising the skills of older people, making them feel useful and enhancing our communities and economy. We also need to start thinking of new ways we can improve their self-confidence and give them opportunities – whilst also remembering that everyone is equal no matter your age, ethnicity or gender.    

Where we come in

  Kintell is a start-up based in Cambridge (UK) which was founded on the idea that smart-home technology could improve the lives of older people by helping them remain independent for longer. We have created a set of devices which can be used around the home to provide older people and their families with peace of mind. The devices have many features which aid the independence, and therefore self-confidence, of older people. They also help the formation of healthy habits and give useful reminders to stay hydrated and keep on top of medication. In addition to a path-finding nightlight system that has the potential to reduce the likelihood of falls during the night. To find out more about Kintell and see how they could help you or your loved one visit Kintell.co.uk and together we can improve the lives of older adults.