Ageism involves prejudice or discrimination against people based on their age. The term “ageism” was coined by Robert Neil Butler in 1969 to describe bias against older people. However, today, ageism also describes bias against young people and specific age groups. Ageism in society takes many different forms. It can be seen in the workplace, healthcare systems, laws, and stereotypes of people of different ages. The first step to combating ageism, like many other types of prejudice, is education. Without knowledge or understanding on how ageism affects people around the world, no progress will be made towards ending this injustice. Therefore, teaching about ageism is very important and will encourage students to recognize their own unconscious (or conscious) biases against people of various ages, continue to educate themselves, and start conversations on the ageism battle!
There are many resources available online for teaching about ageism. Ageism has been making more of an appearance in conversations since the World Health Organization’s Global Report on Ageism was published in 2021, and the lesson plans, articles, and informational sites below will help teachers to introduce their students to this concept!
- Understanding and Challenging Ageism: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) provides a lesson plan on understanding and challenging ageism. In this lesson, students will learn what ageism is and the many ways it manifests, reflect on and categorize specific examples of ageism, and finally consider the ways they can be allies before taking actions to confront and challenge ageism. Students will do so through participating in several different activities, including a turn and talk, an information sharing, and a reading activity.
- Examining Ageism: We Are Canada has created a lesson package for students in grades 7 to 8 on examining ageism. There are four lessons included in the lesson package: What Is Ageism?, Stereotypes and Ageism, the Power of Relationships, and Relationship Building. There is also both an ageism survey for students to complete to evaluate their own ageism practices and age-related scenarios for teachers to share with students so they can gain a deeper understanding of ageism.
- UNIT on Ageism: This unit on ageism is broken down into four separate sections: Introduction, Ageism, Institutional Ageism, and Resistance and Alliance. The introduction introduces the unit on ageism and identifies and discusses the daily conflicts affecting elders. In Ageism, students will learn about the concept of ageism, compare ageism and adultism, and investigate how ageism operates in different institutions. The section Institutional Ageism requires students to make presentations on institutional ageism (in popular culture, the workplace, health care, and the family) and their effects on elders while applying the concepts of resistance and alliance.
- When Ageism Strikes, Just Start Talking: Ageism.org provides an article on how to talk to someone with age-biases and in turn help them learn a lesson that has a lasting impact. The article discusses how you can talk about who you are, past ageism experiences, feelings, and research—all with the aim of educating people who are engaging in age discrimination.
- Beyond “OK Boomer” – Middle School Students and Ageism: Changing the Narrative offers an article that discusses talking to middle school students about ageism. The author, Janine Vanderburg, explains her experience with talking to a middle school class about ageism, specifically discussing the teaching process and how she was blown away by the responses to what the young students will do to help fight ageism.
- Addressing Ageism: This article on Legacy Project addresses ageism. Susan V. Bosak, the author, discusses how education is the key, growing up and getting old, teaching children about aging, and looking past stereotypes. Ultimately, Bosak suggests that teachers focus on helping students explore four areas as a part of understanding the course of life: the aging process, issues related to aging, older people as individuals, and connections between young and old.
- Ageism: A ‘Prevalent and Insidious’ Health Threat: The New York Times has published an article on ageism and its threat to society and people’s health. The article discusses where ageism can be seen in society, the research WHO is conducting on ageism and ways to combat it, the effectiveness of anti-ageism programs, and more!
- How Does Ageism Impact More Than Just Older Adults?: Verywell Mind offers a brief article explaining how ageism impacts more than just older adults. Despite the fact that the term was originally used to describe the discrimination of older adults, it can now be used to describe prejudice against people of all age. The article discusses stereotypes that contribute to ageism, just how common ageism is, and how to combat ageism.
- What Are Some Solutions For Ageism?: Ageism.org provides an article that discusses some solutions for ageism, including staying a friendly force at work, continuing to learn, limiting your stress, becoming the voice, and sharing your story. Though there is not one specific solution for ageism, teachers who want their students to learn about the variety of ways they can combat ageism together.
- Ageism.org: Ageism.org offers a multitude of resources for teaching students about ageism. The most helpful and informative articles are described below.
- What is Ageism?: This article explains what ageism is, specifically focusing on types of ageism, self-inflicted ageism, ageism in healthcare, ageism in the workplace, reverse ageism, ageism in Hollywood, and ageism in family.
- Ageism Stereotypes: This brief article on ageism stereotypes discusses examples of ageism stereotypes, studies about ageism stereotypes, how to stop stereotyping yourself, what you can do to stop ageism stereotypes, and the next steps you can take.
- Ageism in Society: This brief article on ageism in society explains the changes people can make to impact the current ageism society faces. It talks about how to check yourself when you start stereotyping, get educated, and start conversations.
- 2021 World Health Organization Global Report on Ageism: Ageism.org examines the 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Ageism, which presented three strategies that the WHO and UN believe will best fight ageism. These strategies include the creation of policies and laws, education, and intergenerational experiences.
- Ageing – Ageism: The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a Q&A detail tackling some of the most common questions about ageism, such as what ageism is, who ageism affects, where ageism is seen, whether ageism is really a problem, and whether we can combat ageism. In addition, there are links to a fact sheet on ageing and health and the March 2021 event Kicking Off a Global Conversation About Ageism: The Launch of the First UN Global Report on Ageism.
- Ageism is a Global Challenge – UN: The World Health Organization (WHO) has published an article on the global challenge of ageism. This article comes after the WHO, UN, and other organizations released a report calling for urgent action to combat ageism. The article discusses both findings from the report and combating ageism.
Teaching about ageism is so important. Ageism is something that is often overlooked, but it is experienced by so many people of all different ages and contributes to the intolerance and injustice present in our society. Students may have strong feelings about ageism, so teachers should give them time to share their own experiences with this type of prejudice if they want to do so!