Engaging people living with dementia and cognitive impairment through the arts

Anti-Ageism Discussion

Alternative elderly road sign

Alongside another passionate age activist, Moriam Abin, Engage Here facilitated an online discussion for young people on ageism. The discussion was part of Toynbee Hall's 'When We Speak' programme, which champions young people as the answer to some of London's most pressing issues Arrow right

Written by Melissa Fry

The aims of the discussion were to challenge some of the stereotypes associated with ageing, as well as looking how society's view of ageing has changed over time. We also looked to understand how young people might have been left out of the discussion and how ageing is perceived in different cultures.

Young person holding up vintage clothing
Felipe Valdovinos with vintage clothing. Source: Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin

As an icebreaker, participants were asked to find the oldest object they had in their room. Some examples of this were vintage clothing, antiquarian books or even toys from a bygone era. The point of this exercise was to temporarily distance the conversation from humans and think about how we look at anything that might be old. In most circumstances, especially in the discussed examples of clothing, we don't treat old things as less valuable, we often even celebrate their qualities.

Following that, participants shared their own experiences of ageism, small things like being segregated at a family party or bigger things like not having the right to vote. There was resounding positivity around being given the chance to voice an opinion in "adult spaces" whatever age you are. Considering age as a perspective rather than barrier. An interesting insight from the young participants was how they saw protests as a space where everyone had an equal voice.

Children protesting for climate change
Thousands of young people and school children protest in central London over climate change. Source: Barcroft Media

We also talked about the representation of ageism in society. First of all through sayings such as "to be seen not heard", this was unanimously disliked and considered an example that is used less and less, as children’s importance and value in society improves, since the phrase was coined in Victorian days.. Less divisive phrases were also discussed. The phrase "When I'm older I want to", was highlighted as one that is used throughout someone’s life, even by older people, as ambitions don't tend to finish once you reach your twenties.

Within society's infrastructure, we touched on The Centre for Ageing Better's range of ‘age-positive’ icons as an alternative for stereotypical signage and images, to help tackle ageism. Notably the sign pictured at the top of the page, which is a reinterpretation of elderly sign, you might see near care homes. Further to that we discussed some of the discrimination older people might experience, such as ageism in the recruitment sector, with older people often struggling to re-enter employment in the later years of their career.