Cities and Communities Take A Stand Against Ageism

Peterborough's Best Before Date Media Campaign

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In a diverse society, we tend to unintentionally group people based on appearances, like by sex, race, or the presence or absence of disability. In doing so we mistakenly stereotype people, often to the detriment of people in those groups. Stereotyping and discrimination based on age is called ageism. Stereotyping can be particularly harmful and misleading in older age, because a hallmark of older age is great diversity.

People in all societies around the world are exposed to ageist attitudes throughout their lives, including negative portrayals of older adults in the media and policies and practices that limit the role older adults can play in society.  As people are exposed to negative ageist stereotypes, they often internalize them into subconscious self-stereotypes. While these attitudes are often unconscious, they can have a serious impact on the health of older adults, by limiting function, slowing recovery from disability and disease, and even shortening life expectancy - by seven and a half years.

Social norms have deep roots - but social norms can change, and cities and communities can help to make this happen. In May of this year, the World Health Organization’s 194 Member States called for global action to combat ageism, building on local efforts. To celebrate the International Day of Older Persons, with a fitting 2016 theme, Take A Stand Against Ageism - WHO called on cities and communities to share what they are already doing to combat ageism. We received a large number of high-quality submissions, and here we feature nine of the best that are consistent with the scientific evidence on what works.

Increasing opportunities for inter-generational activities is an important strategy for creating  cohesion between generations. Vila Nova de Foz Coa (Portugal), Pointe-Claire (Canada), Salisbury (Australia), and Montgomery County (USA) all created community initiatives that fostered interaction between younger and older people.

Raising community awareness about the myths and realities of ageing and promoting discussions about ageism is another important strategy for tackling age-based stereotypes.  Cities and communities are being creative and using both in-person and online formats to promote a positive view of ageing. Barcelona (Spain) and Sarasota (USA) used theatre, while the Basque Country created a series of videos to capture and transmit information on older people illustrating how they can be a powerful resource to our communities.

Media campaigns that challenge the inaccurate stereotypes about older people are important to changing social norms. Media often propagates ageist stereotypes, and some cities and communities went directly to this medium to combat ageist stereotypes. Peterborough (Canada) created a media campaign to challenge the way people think about ageing, while the State of New South Wales (Australia) created an award ceremony for media that challenges ageist stereotypes.

Other practices meeting quality guidelines have been published in the Age-friendly Practices Database

We thank everyone for participating in our Call for Practices and encourage all cities and communities to share, discuss, and build on each other’s efforts, in the movement towards a global movement to combat ageism. 

Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health

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About us 

The World Health Organization Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities (GNAFCC) is a global coalition of cities and communities committed to becoming age-friendly. We currently consist of over 330 member cities and communities in 35 countries. 

 

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Our newsletter is published periodically and provides a snapshot of news and resources shared on Age-Friendly World. Submit your news on Age-friendly World or get in touch with us at gnafcc@who.int.