As Canadian baby boomers approach retirement age, a new survey has found that ageism is the most tolerated form of social discrimination in the country.
More than 60 percent of seniors aged 66 and older say they’ve been treated unfairly or differently because of their age, according to the report, released by Revera Inc., a provider of care and services for seniors.
Over half (51 percent) of Canadians say ageism is the most tolerated social prejudice, compared to gender (20 percent) or race-based (14 percent) discrimination.
The report, developed in partnership with the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), found that close to 80 percent of Canadians agree that seniors aged 75 and older are seen as less important and more often ignored than those younger, and over one-third of Canadians admit they’ve treated someone differently based on their age.
Older Canadians are also seen as a burden on society by 21 percent of Canadians.
“It’s troubling that ageism is so pervasive in a time when society needs to evolve to meet the needs of an aging population,” said Rivera president and CEO Jeff Lozon.
“Canada’s baby boomers are growing older. Building an age-inclusive society must be a top priority for all of us as our demographics change,” Lozon added.
The most common type of discrimination faced by seniors, according to the survey, include being ignored or treated as though they are invisible, people assuming they have nothing to contribute, and being deemed incompetent.
Seniors report that most cases of discrimination come from younger people, followed by the government and health care professionals.
Discriminatory practices by the government include government programs and policies not taking into account the needs of older people (87 percent), and public transportation not accounting for their needs (36 percent.)
The most common form of discrimination reported from the health care system includes health professionals dismissing the complaints of older people as an inevitable part of aging.
Emerging Global Trend
According to data from the European Social Survey cited in the report, close to half (46 percent) of seniors in Europe also report experiencing age-related prejudice.
“This is an emerging global trend that requires addressing with the same vigour that we’ve addressed other significant social issues,” said Jane Barratt, secretary general of the IFA.
“As a society, there should be no tolerance for ageism, and we must actively work together to end it.”
In more positive light, the report found that older Canadians are more likely than all other generations to say “you never stop living life to the fullest,” and that “age is just a number.”Around 40 percent of Canadians 66 years and older say the “best is yet to come.”
The top three changes suggested to combat age discrimination include investing in technologies that help older people live independently for longer, raising awareness about ageism to make it as socially unacceptable as sexism and racism, and providing more government funding for healthcare solutions to address the specific needs of the aging population.