The Benevolent Society, described as Australia’s oldest charity at 205 years old, recently surveyed 1,005 people aged 50 and over about their experience of ageism in the workplace.

Although 31% of respondents said they have never experienced ageism at work, many others claimed it was a frequent occurrence.

The survey showed that age discrimination exists from the low level acts that could be dismissed as unconscious – jokes or comments by colleagues and managers, or being patronised as if they didn’t understand certain aspects of the job – to the overt – 35% said that their age has led them to being actively excluded from work conversations, conferences or training opportunities.

However, age discrimination may be an even greater issue. Of those who responded to the survey, almost 40% said that they did not understand what ageism is, or that they had heard the term but were not sure of its meaning.

Job applicants face the biggest obstacles. According to the research, the most confronting examples of ageism were found among those looking for work rather than those already employed.

Respondents said that they had been told things such as “no one can work here if they’re born before 1960”; “I was told I was too old to be employable” and “you’re too old and we don’t hire people with disability”.

Being discriminated against because of your age, whether young or old, is ageism. Particularly in those over 50, they may be told, or it’s implied, that they’re too old to learn new technology and thus won’t get a position or won’t get promoted. Age discrimination is also illegal
— Marlene Krasovitsky, Director Campaigns – Older Australians, The Benevolent Society

Experience of age discrimination (%)

Source: Benevolent Society

Do you know what age discrimination is? (%)

Source: Benevolent Society

Older workers and technology

In the survey, 32% of people said there was a perception that older people could not learn new technology.

Marlene Krasovitsky, Director Campaigns – Older Australians, The Benevolent Society, said “Ageism is so entrenched in the workplace and in our lives, people don’t even realise when they’re being discriminated against. It’s almost as though it’s accepted, especially when it comes to technology. People said they were told: ‘you’re not up with the latest tech’, ‘Why should I invest in training you as you’re too old’, ‘you’re not able to learn new technology’ “.

Almost half of people surveyed they had seen or been confronted with “older people don’t want to learn new things”