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Ageism takes many forms in the workplace

Harris K, Krygsman, Washenko J, et al.  Ageism and the older worker: A scoping review  The Gerontologist. 2016; 58(2): 1-14.

Review question

      What is known about the effects of ageism on work experience and opportunities for older workers?


      There have been policy shifts over the past years to promote extended working lives. In the context of an aging population, keeping older workers in the workforce is expected to bring social and economic benefits.

      However, older workers often face systematic stereotyping and discrimination (a phenomenon known as ageism).

      This systematic review examines the body of research on ageism and its implications for the employment experiences and opportunities of older workers.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted to identify studies published between 2005 and 2016. Studies that focused on aging, ageism, labour and employment were included in the systematic review.

      A total of 831 studies were identified in searches, and 43 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

      The authors did not acknowledge any funding sources for this review.

What the researchers found

      The literature on ageism focused on four themes: 1) the stereotypes and perceptions towards older workers (positive stereotypes and perceptions that older workers have social skills, or are reliable, committed and loyal to an organization, as well as negative stereotypes and perceptions that older workers have decreased performance capacity or limited capacity to use new technologies); 2) the intended behaviours towards older workers (for example, the likelihood of engaging in a positive or negative behaviour towards older workers related to recruitment, hiring, retirement, training, general treatment, and retention); 3) the reported behaviours towards older workers; and 4) how older workers dealt with or ‘negotiated’ with ageism (the strategies used by older workers to manage anticipated or experienced ageism in the workplace or during the employment process such as concealing age-related information within their resumes).


      The review found that stereotypes and perceptions, both negative and positive, impacted the working lives of older adults significantly.

      Further research is recommended to get a more thorough understanding of the implications of ageism on the aging workforce.

      The authors argued that research on ageism can inform educational programs for managers, human-resource professionals, and all workers to help combat negative beliefs, attitudes, and practices towards older workers.

Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

  • Promoting the labour force participation of older Canadians

    Health Canada
    This resource describes Canadian plans to help older adults to work for longer such as by increasing education, helping find jobs and handle health issues.
  • How the Coronavirus Punishes Many Older Workers

    Next Avenue
    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several jobs to shift to telework setups however some jobs cannot be done from home. Older adults have generally less access to jobs that allow working from home. This is troubling as older adults are impacted by job loss and economic insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read this resource to learn more.
  • Age Discrimination, Caregiving and Health Issues Limit Options for Older Workers

    American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Health
    One of the reasons why older adults may experience underemployment is age discrimination. Underemployment is when someone is overqualified for their job position or is not able to work as many hours as they would like. Read this resource to learn how bias against older adults can cause under employment.
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