It is important to remember that people are not defined by any singular characteristic. Social determinants such as ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexual orientation combine and intersect to affect health and wellbeing, often varying across the life-course.   Everyone has at least five protected characteristics.

A narrow focus on one aspect of an individuals or a groups identity may therefore work to the detriment of understanding and responding to the reality of their lives and experiences.

Age is a broad equality area and has implications for all people throughout their lives.  There are, however, many ways in which society distinguishes population groups by age. These include, for example, different stages of education, varying ages at which ‘adult’ activities are legally permitted and the state retirement age.  The experience of particular social roles or life stages can vary with age – for example, becoming a parent as a teenager or in one’s 40s. Cultural context also affects how age is perceived, and the expectations of roles and treatment appropriate at different ages.  Age is also relative: 50 may be old in a population with low life expectancy.

Age equality is not just about eliminating discrimination:  it means delivering equitable outcomes for people with different needs at different stages in life. Age is the only protected characteristic by which direct or indirect discrimination can be justified (if it can be argued that treating someone differently because of their age is meeting a legitimate aim).

A 2007 Help the Aged report, by B Bytheway and others, defines age equality as: ‘ensuring that all individuals (irrespective of their age) have the opportunity to live in the way they choose, according to their values; that their different needs, situations and goals are recognised and respected; and that they are treated equally with fairness, dignity and respect’.

‘Ageism’means prejudging or making assumptions about people on the basis of their age’ a set of negative beliefs, such as stereotypes, that lead to age discrimination (Bytheway, 2007) .

Age discrimination is the less favourable treatment of one person relative to another because of their age. Age discrimination is well understood to be the most common form of discrimination in the UK. Much of the inequality, prejudice and discrimination experienced by older people stems from pervasive negative stereotypes and attitudes held about ageing.

Further information:

Childrens Rights Alliance –

Age UK –