Ageism is a widespread source of discrimination in Canadian society. It occurs at the individual level as stereotyped attitudes about old age that influence our expectations of ourselves and others. Sometimes these attitudes inform behaviour and result in discrimination against others based on their age. Institutional ageism can be the most damaging but is often hidden in plain view because we do not recognize the ways in which policies and the structure of services deprive older people of opportunities and resources.
I was recently engaged by the the Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat (SPPS) of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to conduct a literature review on diverse experiences of ageism across multiple intersections of marginality, for which I used a Critical Interpretive Synthesis methodology. This literature review of more than 200 sources in English and French provides examples of ageism at the individual, interpersonal and societal levels across three contexts: (A) the body and self/identity, (B) work, retirement, and socio-economic/income security, and (C) housing, health, and social services. It also recognizes that discrimination is rarely experienced in relation to age alone; stereotypes of many other characteristics such as gender, sexuality, ability, racialized identities (of Indigenous peoples, immigrants and refugees), and illness burdens (e.g. HIV/AIDS, dementia) also inform people’s negative attitudes. For this reason, ageism is best understood through an intersectionality lens.
I have previously taught sections on ageism in my gerontology courses, but the topic deserves a full semester-long course, which I am developing for the Spring 2021 term. I can also develop tailor-made workshops from components of the course to address your organization’s needs.