Ageism has appeared in the media increasingly over the last twenty years.

• What is it?

• How are we affected?

• How does it relate to services for older people?

This book builds bridges between the wider age-conscious culture within which people live their lives and the world of the caring professions. In the first part, the literature on age prejudice and ageism is reviewed and set in a historical context. A wide range of settings in which ageism is clearly apparent are considered and then, in the third part, the author identifies a series of issues that are basic in determining a theory of ageism. The book is written in a style intended to engage the reader's active involvement: how does ageism relate to the beliefs the reader might have about older generations, the ageing process and personal fears of the future? To what extent is chronological age used in social control? The book discusses these issues not just in relation to discrimination against 'the elderly' but right across the life course.

The book:

• is referenced to readily available material such as newspapers and biographies

• includes case studies to ensure that it relates to familiar, everyday aspects of age

• includes illustrations - examples of ageism in advertizing, etc.


The rapid growth in ageing populations in this and other countries has led to a dramatic increase in gerontology. Since the mid-1970s, we have seen a steady growth in the publication of British research studies which have attempted to define and describe the characteristics and needs of older people. Equally significant have been the very few theoretical attempts to re-conceptualize what old age means and to explore new ways in which we think about older people (e.g. Johnson 1976; Townsend 1981; Walker 1981). These two broad approaches which can be found in the literature on ageing – the descriptive (what do we know about older people) and the theoretical (what do we understand about older people and what does old age mean to them) – can also be found in the small number of postgraduate and professional training courses in gerontology which are principally intended for those who work with older people in the health and social services.

Concurrent with this growth in research and knowledge, however, has been a growing concern about the neglect of ageing and old age in the education and basic training of most workers in the health and social services, and about inadequate dissemination of the new information and ideas about ageing to lay carers and a wider public. There is, therefore, a widening gap between what we now know and understand about ageing and ageing populations and the limited amount of knowledge and information which is readily available and accessible to the growing number of professional and voluntary workers and others who are involved in the care of older people.

The main aim of the 'Rethinking Ageing' series is to fill this gap with books which will focus on a topic of current concern or interest in ageing. These will include elder abuse, health and illness in later life, community care and working with older people. Each book will address two fundamental questions: What is known about this topic and what are the policy and practice implications of this knowledge?

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