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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.
  • Employment Support

    Homeless Hub
    People of all ages may experience homelessness which makes finding employment hard due to barriers such as limited access to clean clothes, a telephone, the internet and transportation issues. Currently there are very few services and social support available to help these people in need.
  • Age-friendly workplaces: Promoting older worker participation

    Employment and Social Development Canada
    Age friendly workplaces must be accessible to workers of all ages and this resource describes ways to create an inclusive workplace. Consider hiring older workers and learn how their experiences can benefit your company.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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