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Don’t call your gran ‘sweet’! Charity campaigners urge Brits to challenge use of ‘patronising’ terms about older people as they fuel a ‘damaging stereotype’ about ageing


Brits are being urged to ditch ‘patronising’ terms about older people, such as ‘sweet’ and ‘kind’, as it fuels a ‘damaging stereotype’ about ageing, a charity has said. 

A campaign run by the Centre for Ageing Better has called on the public to axe the use of ‘belittling’ terms and other ‘ageist’ phrases such as ‘I am too old for this’, ‘you look good for your age’ and ‘having a senior moment’.

The charity claims that anti-ageing creams can affect ‘self-esteem and confidence as we get older’ and could push people towards cosmetic surgery.   

People are encouraged to take the charity’s five-part ‘Are You Ageist? quiz as part of the Age Without Limits campaign, which will see billboards placed across train stations in the country.

Those taking the quiz are asked: ‘If you hear a friend describe an older person as ‘sweet’, what do you think?’

Brits are being urged to ditch 'patronising' terms about older people, such as 'sweet' and 'kind', as it fuels a 'damaging stereotype' about ageing the Centre for Ageing Better has said. Pictured: File photo of elderly couple

Brits are being urged to ditch ‘patronising’ terms about older people, such as ‘sweet’ and ‘kind’, as it fuels a ‘damaging stereotype’ about ageing the Centre for Ageing Better has said. Pictured: File photo of elderly couple 

Dame Esther Rantzen, 83, (pictured in May 2022) who founded The Silver Line - a help line for older people - slammed the campaign claiming the quiz trivalised ageism

Dame Esther Rantzen, 83, (pictured in May 2022) who founded The Silver Line – a help line for older people – slammed the campaign claiming the quiz trivalised ageism

People are encouraged to take the charity's five-part 'Are You Ageist? quiz as part of the Age Without Limits campaign

People are encouraged to take the charity’s five-part ‘Are You Ageist? quiz as part of the Age Without Limits campaign

For those those who answer ‘it is belittling and I should call my friend out on it’ the auto-prompt responds: ‘We agree – nobody should be judged to have particular attributes based on their age. Even ‘positive’ assumptions can be patronising or belittling.’

For those who say: ‘I wouldn’t think much about it – older people can be really sweet’ the quiz says: ‘They might mean it affectionately, but this stereotype – of older people being inherently ‘sweet’ and ‘kind’ – can be damaging.

‘Research suggests that people who hold this view generally also think older people are less competent.’

The charity also released a guide on how to ‘challenge ageism’. It urges people to stop using patronising words or phrases like ‘dear’, ‘wrinkly’, ‘come on grandad’ and ‘little old lady’.

 Dame Esther Rantzen, 83, who founded The Silver Line – a help line for older people – slammed the campaign claiming the quiz trivalised ageism. 

She told the Telegraph: ‘I absolutely hate this quiz There are words which are profoundly offensive, because they are racist, because they are obscene.

‘But the words this quiz is attempting to ban do not fall into either of these categories. I fear it trivialises the very real problem in this country with ageism.’

The legendary television presenter added that she is ‘delighted’ when her children call her ‘sweet’ adding that the charity itself was having a ‘senior moment’ if they took the quiz seriously.

One question asks quiz-takers if they have used any of these 'ageist' phrases in the past

One question asks quiz-takers if they have used any of these ‘ageist’ phrases in the past 

Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, cited examples of drawings by young children as an example of entrenched ageist attitudes (Stock Image)

Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, cited examples of drawings by young children as an example of entrenched ageist attitudes (Stock Image)

Children as young as four are contributing to negative stereotypes towards older people, MPs on the women and equalities committee were told (Stock Image)

Children as young as four are contributing to negative stereotypes towards older people, MPs on the women and equalities committee were told (Stock Image)

Last month, MPs were told that older people overwhelmingly suffer from ageist attitudes, with children as young as four contributing to negative stereotypes.

Nearly half of those over the age of 50 had suffered age discrimination in the last year, MPs on the women and equalities committee were told.

Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, cited examples of drawings by young children as an example of entrenched ageist attitudes.

‘What demonstrates how pervasive ageist attitudes are, people have asked young children to draw what they think an older person looks like,’ she told the committee.

‘You get little drawings of an old lady with a stick, when actually you have grandparents in their forties. It goes to show children are picking it up.’

Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: ‘Ageism is the prejudice that’s hidden in plain sight. We see and hear casual ageism every day, it’s embedded in our society and even accepted as normal by many of us who are older.

‘Ageism scars lives. It is often dismissed as being harmless, but if you look at the research, or speak to people whose lives have been affected by ageism, you will soon realise ageist ideas or beliefs can be incredibly damaging for us as individuals and for wider society.

‘That is why we are launching this campaign to get the nation thinking differently about ageing, for the benefit of us all as we grow older.’



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