Age related Microaggressions


  1. What is Ageism?
  2. Why is Ageism a problem?
  3. Different types of Age discrimination
    • Direct Discrimination
    • Indirect discrimination
    • Harassment
    • Victimisation
  4. What does age related microaggression look like?
  5. How to recognise age related microaggressions
  6. Age related Micro Affirmative Behaviours
  7. Download our posters

1. What is Ageism?


Ageism also known as age discrimination is when someone treats you unfairly because of your age.

As per the World Health Organisations Ageism report, ageism refers to the way we think (stereotype), how we feel (prejudice) and how we act (discrimination) towards others based on age 1.

Ageism can affect everyone. There are stereotypes and prejudices that can guide people’s behaviour to people of different ages. In this reference, we will be considering age discrimination on both younger and older members of the profession.

Experiencing ageism can impact your confidence, job prospects, financial situation, and quality of life.

Ageism often intersects and interacts with other forms of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, including ableism, sexism and racism. Experiencing multiple intersecting forms of bias compound disadvantage and make the effects of ageism on individuals’ health and well-being even worse. 

Ageism and ableism are closely intertwined in ways that can often result in mutual reinforcement. 

The term “gendered ageism” has been coined to cover the intersection of age and gender, and it refers to differences in ageism faced by women compared with men. This has been evidenced with women experiencing ageism more than men 1.

2. Why is ageism a problem?

In the UK, ageism affects people of all ages, with one in three people experiencing age – based prejudice or discrimination. Evidence shows ageism is widespread in society and can be found everywhere from our workplaces and health systems to the stereotypes seen on TV, advertising and in the media.

It can change the way we view ourselves and can devalue or limit our ability to benefit from what younger and older populations can contribute, it can impact our health, wellbeing and have economic consequences.

In the RPS Inclusion and Diversity strategy, age was highlighted as one of the key barriers to working in pharmacy requiring more support and improvement, with more work needed to reach out to pharmacists at different stages of their careers. There are examples of age discrimination across the board in pharmacy which we would like to remove through highlighting what an age microaggression can look and sound like and how to be more age micro affirmative.

Having a diverse group from different years of experiences and ages brings multiple viewpoints, which leads to better decision-making and problem-solving. Research suggested that multigenerational teams are more productive and have less turnover than teams of the same age.

Older team members may have decades of experience, skills and expertise that is difficult to teach and can serve an important role as mentors. Younger members will bring different ideas and perspectives.

3. Different types of age discrimination:

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination refers to situations where someone is treated less favourably than someone else in a similar situation because of their age.

Younger pharmacists may have experienced discriminatory comments from their colleagues, as there is an assumption, they are under qualified for a role compared to an older pharmacist, and therefore are less knowledgeable.

Older pharmacists may experience discriminatory comments from their colleagues about being too old to learn a new skill.

Indirect discrimination

It is indirect discrimination to have a rule, a policy or practice which applies to everyone, however, puts a particular age group at a disadvantage.

An example of this may also occur when care is offered in such a way that older people are disadvantaged because they are disproportionately affected.

It could also be seen in recruitment if the job description for a pharmacy post specifies the applicant should be recently qualified or have at least 10 years of experience. Specifying particular years of experience is likely to be discriminatory towards particular age groups.


Harassment in the workplace occurs when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded based on an individual's age. This behaviour can include bullying, nicknames and threats.

This could include pretending an older employee is deaf or teasing a colleague by saying that they are too young to know any better.


This is when you’re treated badly because you have made a complaint of age related discrimination. It can also occur if you’re supporting someone who has made a complaint of age-related discrimination.

Ageism can also be internalised, leading people to limit their own behaviour and opportunities, describing themselves in negative ways such as ‘past it’ or ‘over the hill’ leads to people being forced out of the workforce or being passed over for job progression.

There is also, institutional ageism which refers to the laws, rules, social norms, policies and practices of institutions that unfairly restrict opportunities and systemically disadvantage individuals because of their age.

See also, Legal view: What are the four types of age discrimination in pharmacies?


4. What does age related microaggression look like?

Common ageist themes include reducing older people to negative stereotypes, pitting younger and older generations against each other, and portraying later life as a time of frailty and decline.

Examples of age related microaggressions - Being spoken to in a way which indicates you don't understand something because you are older. Being dismissed by someone for not having enough experience if you are a younger member of the pharmacy team. Not asking for your input into work or a project and not taking their contributions seriously due to the fact they are perceived to be too young and not have enough experience. Being spoken to in a way which indicates you don't understand because you are younger and don't have enough experience. Organising events which leave older people out of company social events and activities. Be mindful of compassionate ageism, a well-intentioned but paternalistic mindset, where older people are portrayed as vulnerable and requiring protection. Being spoken to in a way which indicates you don't understand something because you are older. Expecting older members of the pharmacy team to be warmer and soft. Feeling like you are being pushed out of a job because you are older and you are made to feel you need to make room for younger members of the team. Team members may pity older pharmacy team members for not getting it. Assuming older members of the pharmacy team are past it or over the hill resulting in not being taken seriously or passed over for job progression or development opportunities. Assuming older members of the pharmacy team have a lower competence or are not as innovative in coming up with new creative ideas. Limiting the number of opportunities for younger pharmacy team members to contribute to decision making in the workplace. Not offering younger staff members the development opportunities as it is not their turn vet. Making assumptions that older pharmacy members of staff are less competent or less capable of learning new skills, set in their ways and don't have tech skills. As a younger person if you are  interested in going for more senior roles you have to prove yourself more than your older colleagues, demonstrating your experiences and outcomes. As a younger person, when you are applying for a senior role you may be overlooked for the opportunity because you still have time to get there and you need to wait your turn. Gendered ageism - Men with grey hair and wrinkles are seen as distinguished, wise and experienced, whereas grey hair and wrinkles are considered to make women look unattractive in many cultures. Self-limiting behaviour which can stem from internalised stereotypes about what a person of a given age can do or be. Assuming only older pharmacy members of staff will have poorer health, disabilities or caring responsibilities. Patronizing behaviour used to interact with older and younger members of the pharmacy team. Having workplace policies that unfairly privilege one age group over another. There is an assumption that you are not entitled to take time off for family commitments because you don't have young kids at home. Younger adults with a disability may be treated with disrespect because they are violating the cultural norm of able-bodiedness, whereas their older counterparts may be treated with support and empathy.

5. How to recognise age related microaggressions

We've collected some real-life examples of age related microaggressions, with an explanation of why these comments or questions can be offensive, insulting or insensitive.

Collection of some real-life examples of age related microaggressions - You don't have enough experience to apply for this role as you're too young. You look good for your age. Older members of the team, are slow and are weighing people down. As a younger pharmacy team member, when you raise a point of view or add to the discussion you're not taken seriously or ignored. As an older women in particular you're seen as incompetent, however older men are seen as experienced and have wisdom. As a younger pharmacy team member if you provide advice or expertise it's confirmed with an older team member. People second guessing recommendations because you don't look old enough or experienced enough to be a pharmacist. An assumption that the older person (typically male) in the pharmacy or department is the pharmacist. You are not being considered for the development opportunity because you're further in your career and the opportunity should be given to a younger team member. They haven't been qualified that long, what did she do to get that job. You don't look like a Chief Pharmacist, you look too young. Are you having a senior moment? You're too young, how did you manage to get the senior role?

6. Age related Micro Affirmative Behaviours

You have a duty to ensure that you’re not acting in a discriminatory manner, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Take positive micro-affirmative actions to be age inclusive and prevent microaggressions.

Encourage an inclusive culture which is understanding and open to education. Provide support and comfort for individuals and create new positive behaviours.

  • Hold yourself and others to account for any of the microaggressions highlighted above. When you notice them, you can call them out as an ally as outlined here:
  • Be mindful of your biases, perceptions, and stereotypes - challenge your values and assumptions of experience and age.
  • Challenge your view of traditional age-related perceptions.
  • Recognising there is a benefit in having different voices at the table. Appreciate that a broad spectrum of experience results in problem-solving skills being enhanced as there are different approaches to projects, with the diversity of thought improving the final outcome.
  • Ensuring there is representation and visibility from a breadth of experiences and ages around the table.
  • If someone speaks up against an ageist microaggression or tells you they're hurt by what you said or did, don’t argue that it didn’t happen, try and understand how your behaviour can be changed and see it as an opportunity to develop your awareness.
  • If you’re chairing a meeting, make sure you have given everyone the opportunity to contribute.
  •  Educational activities can enhance empathy, dispel misconceptions about different age groups and reduce prejudice by providing accurate information and counter-stereotypical examples
  • Intergenerational interventions, bringing together people of different generations, can help reduce age related prejudice and stereotypes.
  • Communicating about ageing in the right way can help to tackle ageism and promote positive and inclusive behaviour in all aspects of life, from our communities and workplaces to the media, social media and political platforms.
  • Don’t use teams like ‘dear’, ‘young at heart’ ‘grumpy’ or ‘young girl’ – always refer to people by their name
  • Challenge ageism in everyday conversations – when you hear people using ageist stereotypes or displaying ageist attitudes, try to explain how the language they use can impact people
  • Need to think about the language we are using to describe ageing and age in policies, job descriptions and in our teams. Don’t use ageist language
  • Don’t make any assumptions of people's experiences, behaviours and potential based on their age.
  • Everyone should be considered for development opportunities and promotions based on their performance and capabilities, and not their age.
  • Don’t make any assumptions based on peoples ages and of their interests and career aspirations.
  • Consider all team members for progression opportunities, regardless of an individual's age.

7. Download our posters

In addition to the behaviour highlighted above, age related micro-aggressive behaviours can be verbal, non-verbal or environmental.

Download our posters below, on recognising age related Microaggressions, and examples of age related Microaggressions.

Age%20Microsgression%20Poster_001 Age%20Microsgression%20Poster_002