We are working to combat ageism, so that we can all live valued, connected and fulfilling lives as we age. The Office for Seniors is committed to leading this work by implementing the Better Later Life strategy and championing the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.      

What is ageism

Ageism is the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others and ourselves based on age.

It can be institutional, interpersonal, or self-directed.

Ageism pervades many institutions and sectors of our society, affecting younger and older adults, often without us even realising.

What causes ageism

We are all exposed to negative messages about older people, so our brains are wired to form judgements about people based on their age.

For example, because of years of exposure to the news and common movie characters, many people subconsciously assume that older people are forgetful, grumpy, frail or a burden.

These stereotypes lead to discrimination against older people in many areas of life, from healthcare to the workplace. Ageism can have serious and potentially life limiting impacts on older people’s health and wellbeing.

For example, 23 percent of respondents to the Attitudes to Ageing survey said they sometimes feel invisible because of their age. This is despite older people contributing to society and the economy as employees, business owners, volunteers, and carers.

Combatting ageism

One of the four action areas in the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing is to combat ageism. In this, the World Health Organization is working to change how we think, feel, and act towards age and ageing by generating evidence on ageism, building a global coalition to combat ageism, and developing tools and resources that can be used by others to act. You can find out more here.

 Role of the Office for Seniors

We combat ageism through:

  • the Better Later Life Strategy and Action Plan. This is our keystone publication which sets out our vision for improving the future as we age. One of the guiding principles which underpins this is valuing people as they age.
  • our work to create age-friendly communities – that respect the rights of older people, values their contribution to society and supports their participation in community life
  • commissioning and sharing information about the contribution that older people make to our society through our Business of Ageing Research. The latest research from the 2021 report can be found here
  • better understanding the perception of ageing across society. Our Attitudes to Ageing research here identified that negative stereotypes to ageing continue to be mentioned more commonly than positive ones. This was a significant change from the 2016 Attitudes towards Ageing report, where positive stereotypes were more common than negative ones.
  • challenging stereotypes by using appropriate language and by sharing and promoting positive stories and images of about older people through our communication channels.

We also work with other government agencies to ensure we are addressing the issues that make it hard for us to stay involved and contribute as we get older.

Under the leadership of the Office for Seniors, combatting ageism is one part of New Zealand’s response to the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.

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