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Ageism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice


Ageism The Last Acceptable Prejudice
Ageism The Last Acceptable Prejudice

Ageism is an insidious form of prejudice that permeates society, often unnoticed and unchallenged. While age discrimination is prominent across industries, as many as 70% of older workers in the technology industry report experiencing or witnessing ageism [1]. These alarming statistics demonstrate the urgent need for change in our industry.


Although older adults are brought in for interviews at a rate similar to younger applicants, they are offered jobs 40% less frequently than younger candidates with similar skills [2]. This disparity highlights the bias against older workers in the tech industry.


Startlingly, the average median employee age at 17 top tech companies is 32, with Google's average median age even lower, at 29 [3]. Such data underscores the pressing need to address ageism and foster age diversity within tech companies.

Tech industry ageism doesn't stop with lower-level employees. In fact, 37% of founders believe that startup investors exhibit bias against them based on age, hindering their access to capital and resources [4].


Addressing ageism head-on, challenging biases and stereotypes that hinder progress and limit the potential for inclusive and user-friendly design solutions is essential.


Through this article, we will unravel the impact of ageism on society, with a specific focus on the design industry. By uncovering the hidden consequences and exploring strategies for age-inclusive design, we aim to inspire change and foster empathy, ensuring that our products and experiences cater to the needs of diverse users.


What is Ageism


Definition and Manifestations of Ageism

Ageism is a pervasive bias and discrimination based on age, specifically targeting older individuals. It manifests in various ways, such as stereotyping, marginalization, and exclusion based on age.


These manifestations can range from subtle ageist remarks and assumptions to overt forms, like denying employment opportunities or disregarding the experiences and contributions of older individuals. Ageism can be seen in different contexts, including design and technology, where ageist attitudes can shape product development, user experience, and societal perceptions.


An illustration depicting diverse individuals of different ages, highlighting the concept of ageism
An illustration depicting diverse individuals of different ages, highlighting the concept of ageism

Impact of Ageism on Society, Design, and Technology

Ageism has far-reaching implications across society, including the design and technology sectors.

When ageist attitudes permeate these industries, it can lead to exclusionary practices that disregard the needs and preferences of older individuals.


In exploring the pervasive issue of ageism in the tech industry, it is essential to acknowledge the question of employer preferences. Research has shown that some employers exhibit biases toward younger employees, as discussed in the article 'Ageism in tech: Do employers prefer younger employees?’


45% of older adults reported incidents of interpersonal ageism, where they felt others assumed they had trouble using technology, seeing, hearing, understanding, remembering, or being independent [5]. Such biases contribute to why older individuals are being pushed out of their jobs or face difficulties securing new employment opportunities.


In design, ageism can result in products that overlook older users' unique challenges and abilities, leading to frustration, limited accessibility, and a lack of inclusivity. Ageism in technology perpetuates the myth that older adults struggle with technology or lack the skills to engage with digital platforms effectively.


Ageism can also contribute to biased algorithms, age-based targeting, and the perpetuation of stereotypes. By addressing ageism, we can foster age-inclusive design and technology that benefits users of all ages.


Negative Consequences of Ageism on Individuals and Society

Ageism inflicts negative consequences not only on older individuals but also on society as a whole. On an individual level, ageism erodes self-esteem, hinders personal development, and limits opportunities for older individuals to contribute their skills and knowledge. It can lead to social isolation, decreased quality of life, and diminished well-being.


Older adults often face biased assumptions about their health, capabilities, and adaptability to new technologies. These stereotypes and discriminatory practices contribute to why older people are pushed out of their jobs or encounter challenges in finding employment opportunities.

This deprives organizations of valuable expertise, perpetuates age-related disparities, and limits societal progress.


Furthermore, ageism perpetuates societal divisions and reinforces harmful stereotypes, hindering intergenerational collaboration and stifling innovation.


By combatting ageism, we can promote inclusivity, tap into the wealth of wisdom and experience that older individuals offer, and create a more harmonious and equitable society. In the following sections, we will explore strategies to combat ageism in design and the essential role that organizations and individuals play in fostering age-inclusive practices.


Ageism in Design


Prevalence of Ageism in the Design Industry

Ageism is prevalent in the design industry, especially in Product, UI, and UX Design. Despite the importance of catering to diverse user needs, older individuals are often overlooked or excluded in the design process. This perpetuates the misconception that technology and design are primarily for younger generations, neglecting older users' valuable perspectives and experiences.


Examples of Ageist Design Practices

Ageist design practices can be observed in various ways. For instance, some designers may exclude older users from user research and usability testing, assuming their preferences and abilities differ significantly.


This oversight results in products that fail to meet the needs of older individuals, limiting their usability and creating frustration. Additionally, ageist design may rely on stereotypes and assumptions, such as assuming older users are less technologically savvy or have limited digital literacy.


Consequences of Ageist Design

Ageist design perpetuates exclusion, frustration, and limited accessibility for older individuals.

When products are not designed to their needs, older users may struggle to navigate interfaces, understand instructions, or access critical features.


This lack of inclusivity denies older individuals the opportunity to engage with technology fully and hampers their ability to benefit from its potential. Exclusionary design practices also reinforce age-related stereotypes and contribute to the marginalization of older adults in the digital landscape.


A screenshot of a user interface or product design that exemplifies ageist practices, such as small font sizes or unclear navigation.
A screenshot of a user interface or product design that exemplifies ageist practices, such as small font sizes or unclear navigation.

Imagine an e-commerce website that assumes all users are comfortable with small font sizes and tiny icons. Older users with visual impairments may find reading or interacting with the content difficult, leading to frustration and exclusion.

Such ageist design choices affect user experience and limit the potential market reach of products by alienating older demographics.


Recognizing that older users have diverse preferences, abilities, and expertise that can significantly contribute to the design process is crucial. Involving older individuals in user research, testing, and co-creation can ensure that products are accessible, intuitive, and meaningful for users of all ages.


Strategies for Combating Ageism in Design


Advocate for Empathy and Understanding in the Design Process

To combat ageism in design, advocating for empathy and understanding is essential. Put yourself in the shoes of older users and consider their unique perspectives, needs, and challenges.


You can create designs that cater to a broader range of users by cultivating empathy. Design to foster inclusivity and enhance the overall user experience for people of all ages.


An infographic/visual representation of age-inclusive design principles and best practices.
An infographic/visual representation of age-inclusive design principles and best practices.

Encourage User Research and Testing with Diverse Age Groups

To challenge ageist assumptions and biases, actively involve diverse age groups in user research and testing. Collect data and insights from older individuals to better understand their preferences, behaviors, and pain points. By conducting research that includes a wide range of ages, you can uncover valuable insights and design solutions that meet the needs of older users.


Remember, age diversity in user research leads to more inclusive and effective design outcomes.


Promote Age-Inclusive Design Guidelines and Best Practices

Promoting age-inclusive design guidelines and best practices is crucial for combating ageism in design. Encourage the use of accessible font sizes, clear visual cues, and intuitive navigation to enhance usability for older users.


Consider older individuals' diverse physical and cognitive abilities when designing interactions and interfaces. By integrating age-inclusive design principles into your workflow, you can create products that are accessible, user-friendly, and enjoyable for people of all ages.


Collaborate with Older Users and Involve Them in the Design Process

One of the most effective strategies for combating ageism in design is to collaborate directly with older users. Engage them as co-creators and involve them in the design process from ideation to testing.


You can gain invaluable insights and perspectives by including older individuals in design workshops, usability sessions, and focus groups. This collaborative approach ensures that the designs represent their needs and preferences, fostering inclusivity and breaking ageist stereotypes.


The Role of Organizations in Addressing Ageism


Taking a Stand Against Ageism and Promoting Age-Inclusive Design

Organizations have a crucial role in combating ageism and promoting age-inclusive design. Organizations can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace by acknowledging and addressing ageism within their ranks.

Encourage an environment that values diversity and challenges age-related biases. Integrate age-inclusive design practices into the design process, ensuring that products cater to the needs of users of all ages.


Embrace the mindset that age diversity brings valuable perspectives and experiences, leading to more innovative and inclusive design solutions.


A diverse team working together.
A diverse team working together.

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusivity in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusivity are vital for fostering a thriving and innovative workplace culture. Organizations tap into a wealth of knowledge, skills, and perspectives by embracing individuals of different ages.


Age diversity fosters collaboration, cross-generational mentorship, and the exchange of ideas. Creating an inclusive workplace that values employees of all ages promotes a sense of belonging and respect.


Moreover, diverse designers and teams are more likely to produce innovative solutions that address the needs of a broader range of users.


Support Brave Achievers: Join the Movement for Inclusive Tech Design

At Brave Achievers, we are dedicated to creating a more inclusive and diverse tech industry. We recognize the disparities and lack of equal opportunities faced by underrepresented groups, particularly in Product, UI, and UX Design. Our organization is committed to bridging this gap and empowering individuals from diverse backgrounds to succeed in tech.


Highlighting our efforts to address disparities and provide equal opportunities, we have developed the GoCreate USA bootcamp and the YouCreate Africa bootcamp. These programs offer fully funded tech education and mentorship to underrepresented individuals in the tech industry.


We believe that Blacks in America and Africans, regardless of age, sex, or socio-economic background, should have access to quality tech education and the opportunity to pursue a fulfilling career in design.


In addition, our BUX platform offers exceptional subscription-based design services using excellent design squads with agile methodology to ensure that your projects are cost-effective and on time while prioritizing accessible design practices.


We understand the significance of diverse perspectives in shaping innovative and inclusive tech products. We aim to create a more inclusive and representative tech industry by amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups. Through equal opportunities and empowerment, we foster an environment where talented individuals can thrive.


Joining the movement for inclusive tech design is an opportunity to make a tangible difference. By supporting Brave Achievers through your donation, you enable us to provide fully funded tech education, mentorship, and essential resources to aspiring design talent from underrepresented communities. Your contribution is vital in building a more diverse and empathetic tech industry.


Moreover, if your company or organization shares our values and commitment to diversity and inclusion, we invite you to partner. Together, we can drive innovation, foster diversity, and create equal opportunities in the tech industry. By collaborating with Brave Achievers, you become an advocate for change and a catalyst for a more inclusive future.


Join us at Brave Achievers and participate in the movement for inclusive tech design. Together, we can build a brighter and more inclusive future for all. Visit our website or contact us today to learn more and make a meaningful impact.


Wrap Up


It is crucial to recognize that ageism is not just an individual bias but a systemic problem that hinders innovation and limits accessibility. By embracing age-inclusive design principles, we can tap into the wealth of knowledge and experiences that older users bring, creating products that cater to the needs of all age groups.


A representation of unity, diversity, and breaking barriers in the design industry.
A representation of unity, diversity, and breaking barriers in the design industry.

The need to challenge ageist attitudes and strive for inclusivity in design practices cannot be overstated. As designers, developers, and stakeholders, we have the power to shape the future of technology and ensure that it serves everyone equitably. We are responsible for questioning assumptions, conducting diverse user research, and involving older users in the design process.


To drive meaningful change, we must take action. Let's break down barriers, dismantle stereotypes, and champion age-inclusive design. By prioritizing empathy, understanding, and collaboration, we can bridge the representation gap and create products that resonate with diverse user experiences.


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