How Can Our Workplaces And Our Societies Do Better For The Over 50’s?

‘Ageism’ defines our natural biases and assumptions towards members of the population who fall within a given age bracket. Many of us have beliefs that people of a younger age cannot do certain things as effectively as people who have been around for longer. On the contrary, we also commonly assume that people within older generations are less suited for certain tasks, and should therefore conform to society’s unwritten rules on how to work and how to live.

Along with biases, ageism can, and does, involve discriminatory behaviours that often lead to the exclusion of people within given age groups.

Although ageism relates to the different spectrums of age, this article will focus on the latter end of the spectrum and will highlight the lack of consideration and inclusion of our global designs, infrastructures, and systems.

‘Old’ shouldn’t be a dirty word

Ageing is a natural process that unites humanity with the same physical and psychological changes. There is commonly a level of fear and uncertainty that surrounds the process of getting older, something that has been fuelled by negative connotations and biases around what it means to be old.

As part of our collective responsibility to make the world a kinder and more inclusive place, it’s important for us to redefine our beliefs around the natural and beautiful process of ageing.

We all age, grow, adapt, and change as we navigate throughout life, and we carry the lessons we learn along the way. As we get older, we often start to take a look into our own individual history, and reconsider what things are most important to us, and who we really are.

Society has commonly told us that there are certain things we should leave behind as we grow older, but maybe these things, such as the curiosity to try new things and utilise our skills, the desire to take ourselves on new adventures, and the need to make time for play, are the very things we should be prioritising, and maybe we should be designing our world so that people of all ages can live outside of the limits that we assume for ourselves.

Ageing with joy

Featured in the London Design Museum, and developed by the Design Age Institute, a recent study spotlights some of the areas of life that can be reimagined through design to help us to age with joy. They range from environments where we can live, work, and socialise for longer, to products and services that help us to maintain our mobility and independence.

The categories identified are as follows:
The home environment
Social connections
Personal mobility
Public transport
Mental wellbeing
Hobbies & interests
Travel & leisure
Work opportunities
Financial security

These categories, amongst others, have historically lacked the inclusion of older generations, with most new innovations being designed with young people as the planned user.
As a society, we have a collective responsibility to research the challenges and needs of all age groups, and ensure that solutions are implemented that are fitting for the over 50’s, with the aim of not only supporting people to live, but to thrive.

What can we do better?

There are various ways for us to drive change in our workplaces and in our everyday lives including allyship and facilitating accommodations.


In order for us to be better allies to the over 50’s, we must continue to learn about the challenges faced by people within these demographics. Listening to a wide range of people from different generations, and considering intersectionalities such as older people with disabilities, is fundamental in growing our understanding of different lived experiences.

As well as learning, we should be actively encouraging and supporting people who are over 50 to engage in hobbies, interests, and work projects. In the workplace, we should ensure that people of all ages can access the same opportunities to progress, and are able to reach positions of influence so that they can make decisions and drive change.


Similarly to the breadth work towards making workplaces more accessible and inclusive, organisations must be actively encouraging people to share their needs, and working to make accommodations to ensure that people are comfortable and supported at work.

Examples of accommodations include introducing new or adapted communication styles that work best for a given individual, and offering flexible working routines so that employees can take breaks and prioritise their own health as well as their work.

Inclusive initiatives

As well as enabling accommodations, workplaces can listen to employees and develop initiatives to offer further support. Examples of such initiatives could be providing mentorship opportunities to support learning and career progression that is specific to the individual goals and life stages of older employees, and implementing practical mental health support that can be tailored to address the unique needs of different groups such as the over 50’s.

To conclude, there is still work to be done to ensure that biases towards older generations are recognised and unlearned, and that all age groups are prioritised as valued members of society and workplaces. The good news is that these conversations are becoming more and more frequent, and as we continue to live longer, we continue to learn more and take more action.

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