Surprise after study hears ‘ageism is rife’ in North Yorkshire

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Community leaders have expressed surprise after being told a study had concluded North Yorkshire is facing widespread ageism, particularly in workplaces.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s care and independence scrutiny committee heard heard while developing a plan to improve healthy ageing in the county the authority’s public health officers had heard from a significant number of residents that they felt discriminated against due to their age.

The meeting was told the proportion of older people in the county was climbing and by 2043 33 per cent of North Yorkshire’s residents would be aged over 65.

However, officers developing a healthy ageing plan said the employment rate for the over 50s was an area they are focusing on as it was far lower than the national average.

An officer told the meeting the authority was aiming to draw a range of agencies together to focus on the needs of older people, which would include communications campaigns and looking at ageism, which was described as “very much rife in North Yorkshire”.

The officer said: “It could be that people are coming to North Yorkshire and choosing to retire early, but the things that we are hearing is that health is one of the main reasons why people are having to leave work early. A lot of people are reporting feeling discriminated against at work, so we are looking at how we can challenge ageism in the workplace.”

The meeting was told following feedback from older people across the county the council wanted to launch “age-friendly workplace programmes”.

An officer told the meeting: “They don’t feel that they are getting the same opportunities as the younger generation. Particularly during Covid there was a lot of discrimination. People often think that older people are very wealthy, comfortable, at the expense of young people. We have had feedback that there are tensions there.”

Aire Valley councillor Andy Brown said while the county had an ageing population, the authority needed to consider how it could utilise the potential workforce on a part-time basis.

He said: “It strikes me that this is an enormous resource. I’m 71 and more than capable of doing some work. We are in desperate shortage of labour and we seem to be missing opportunities.

“With the cost of living crisis people can’t put their heating on, but could do two or four hours’ work a day and be able to eat or heat.”

However, other councillors said they were shocked by the finding of rife ageism and questioned the officer’s report. Nidderdale councillor Andrew Murday said as a 69-year-old he had not been aware of being subject to ageism, but was “aware of unconscious bias”.

After the meeting, the authority’s older person’s champion, Councillor Caroline Dickinson said she did not believe ageism was preventing older people from working.  She added: “To me age is mind over matter. I think there are opportunities out there. There might be a smaller proportion of over 50s working, but is it a choice?”

The committee’s chair, Councillor Karin Sedgwick said she believed ageism could be a matter of self-perception.