The dangers and limitations of equality agendas as means for tackling old age prejudice

Colin Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a critique Of both the concept of age equality and of the limited scope it offers as a means for challenging old-age prejudice The equality constructs that feature in anti-ageism initiatives and in current discourses oil intergenerational equity have proved susceptible to political and ideological manipulation, which has led to the illegitimate dissociation of ageism from older age and promoted damaging notions of age equivalence. The consequence has been that old-age prejudice has been de-prioritised, and older people have been de-legitimised socially and as a welfare constituency. The corrective is best sought outside the confines of age equality framework, although legal remedies may play a useful role if human dignity is incorporated as an equality criterion. This paper also assesses other approaches to tackling old-age prejudice that avoid the constraints of equality constructs and engage more firmly with its roots. The notion of the 'third age' with new social roles merits reconsideration as all affordable alternative to current policies of work obligation and pension retrenchment. Radical interventions in the labour market in favour of older people may also be needed. Age activism and advocacy will increasingly influence policy on prejudice and well-being in older age, but changed emphases are needed, as from defensive strategies and the ideologies of generational interdependence and solidarity, towards the promotion of organisational, financial and social autonomy in older age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1133-1158
Number of pages25
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


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