Age-Old Ageism


What are you passionate about? What cause do you rally around? Me, I’m passionate about fighting ageism. It’s one of the most overlooked forms of discrimination and the people most affected are women, particularly women of color. I even created an entire ad campaign proposal in a graphic design class around it.

What is ageism? Ageism is the discrimination of individuals based solely on their age. While it is most widely assumed to affect older people, ageism also affects younger members of society, particularly if they look young for their age. I should know, my daughter faces it nearly every day and had a very tough time finding a job, any job, even though she was a college graduate. She’s even been asked, in her twenties, if she was old enough to sit in the exit row on an airplane. You have to be 15 or older to operate the emergency doors on planes.

Ageism is rampant in nearly every part of our society, from health care to the workplace.

Ageism affects older people in our health care system more widely than other cohorts. In some cases, older adults are under-treated, and their medical symptoms are dismissed. In other cases, they are being over-treated, particularly with high-cost medicine and unnecessary diagnostic testing. Senior Living reported that over-treatment has cost our country between $158 to $226 billion in the past.

However, when we think of ageism, we generally think of it in terms of workplace discrimination. The Department of Labor states that “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.”  The McKinsey Podcast on November 19, 2021, focused on the economic impact of ageism globally. Mona Mourshed, CEO of the nonprofit Generation, conducted a report of midcareer workers. Generation found a consistent bias against workers 45 and older globally. In fact, 40 to 70 percent of long-term unemployed people are over 45. Of those, 63 percent had been unemployed for more than a year.

Given that people in their 40s and 50s are in the “sandwich” years caring for both parents and children, this statistic suggests that the economic burden of ageism affects people at the most critical point, financially, in their lives. It will also impact our society economically when, in 2050, four in ten adults will be over 50. As companies automate more and more of the hiring process, algorithms need to be seriously investigated for this bias and all the other biases listed in diversity and inclusion education.

The educational ad campaign idea I had was targeted at reversing the ageism perception around women over 40. It was tagged as “Redefine Prime” and showcased a series of women who achieved great things at the height of their professions and were over the statistical definition of ageism by the Department of Labor. The campaign included social media, web, and print resources. If I ever had enough money and time, I would love to launch it in reality. Check out the complete file here:


One response to “Age-Old Ageism”

  1. […] This is the cause that I’m passionate about and it’s prevalent globally. I even did a design seminar paper about this in 2019. Here’s my post: https://katlehman.net/2022/01/16/age-old-ageism/ […]

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