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Title: The evolution of the concept of ageism and implications for employment and prospects in older age
Author: Duncan, Colin
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2011
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With reference to eight submitted research papers dealing with aspects of ageism both within and outside the employment arena, the discussion focuses upon, consolidates and develops in systematic fashion two key avenues of enquiry that feature to some degree in all of the papers. Part 1 of the Critical Review traces the origins, and investigates the subsequent evolution of the ageism concept in the UK. Three evolutionary phases are located: its initial treatment as a form of prejudice affecting only older people; then as a form of employment discrimination affecting older workers; and its current guise where ageism is treated as synonymous with age inequality per se, potentially affecting all ages. The analysis investigates how and why this shift occurred, concluding that it owed more to utilitarian concerns and vested interests on the part of economic actors than to social justice preoccupations. Elements of chance and timing also played a role, as did questionable stances by academic commentators and age advocates. Given that the current conception of ageism is derived from complex political processes and contingent events, rather than from theoretical debate or popular advocacy, its legitimacy is questioned, particularly its diminished value in challenging distinctive forms of prejudice affecting older people. Part 2 builds on this theme by examining the consequences of subsuming ageism affecting older people within age equality discourses and statute. A case is first set out in support of the original formulation of the concept, by distinguishing old age prejudice from less pernicious forms of age discrimination experienced by younger people. Subsequent discussion demonstrates how age equality constructs embraced in employment law and economic and social policies not only fail to protect older people from discrimination, but can also represent serious threats to well-being in older age, by conferring ideological legitimacy upon workfarism, welfare and pension retrenchment and attacks on the institution of retirement. At a personal level too, age equivalence strictures can be socially and psychologically debilitating for older people, by fostering damaging sentiments of anti-ageing. It is concluded that well-being in older age is best promoted by policies that lie outside the confines of crude age equality frameworks.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available