Diversity Guide – Age

The Protected Characteristic of age covers: a person of a particular age (for example, 32 year old), or an age range (for example, 18 to 30 year olds). People under the age of 18 are not covered by age discrimination protections under the Equality Act. Age also does not apply in relation to the provision of education.

Devon has a large and growing population of older people with younger people tending to leave the area. Some of the issues relating to age include access to services in large rural areas which can be particularly difficult for younger and older people because of a reliance on public transport. Older and younger people are using increasingly different words and phrases, presenting challenges to ensure that our communication methods are those which everyone is comfortable to use. While young people are more likely to use new forms of communication such as smart phones and social media, older people can find it harder to adapt to new technologies, or may simply not want to.

When developing services or policies, consider the following groups and their needs and experiences:

  • Babies and children (0-12)
  • Young people (teenagers) and young adults (13 to 25s)
  • ‘Working age’ people
  • Older people or ‘elders’ (including those who are retired but active and those who are frail or living with age-related conditions such as dementia).

Age alone should not be used as a determining factor for physical or mental performance, or as the deciding factor for access to services or employment including recruitment, training and promotion opportunities. However, age specific services, conditions and benefits may be provided if they: meet a General or Specific Exception, can be objectively justified, or for positive action purposes. General and Specific Exceptions include:

  • Where another piece of legislation allows or requires people to be treated differently, such as age limits to adopt or foster.
  • Where a charity, holiday provider, residential park home, club or association caters for a particular age group.
  • In providing financial services, for example assessing risk when charging for insurance, provided the assessment is based upon reliable data.
  • Any kind of concession.
  • Asking for proof of age when selling age-restricted goods.
  • Using age limits and bands in sport for fair competition and safety or to comply with national, international or sport governing body rules.

Older people and younger people who are dependent on others may be inclined to say what they think someone wants to hear, rather than how they really feel or think. Bear this in mind when discussing options and ensure the person feels free to make choices and express views from their own perspective without interference or cause for concern, for example.

Some things that can be different between age groups include: style/culture (fashion, language, arts, music etc.), access to income, familiarity with new (or old!) technology, knowledge and experience, access to a car or ability to drive, responsibilities including study, work, parenting, caring and prevalence of disability, frailty and health conditions.

Loneliness can cut across all age groups but young people report high levels of loneliness. Older people can be vulnerable to loneliness as a result of losing friends and loved ones over the years and finding it harder to make new friends due to frailty or lack of transport, for example.

Age Equality Checklist

  • Are you using age-appropriate communication methods for the age group? For example, use plain English, and use Easy Read where appropriate.
  • Is parent/carer/advocate involvement needed and accounted for?
  • Are you avoiding and challenging age stereotypes? Are you demonstrating diversity and inclusivity in communications?
  • Could access to/level of income be an issue (limited for younger people and some older people)?
  • How easy is it for people with young children in buggies/prams to access sites and buildings?
  • Are you promoting independence and active, fulfilling lives for older people?
  • Will ability to drive be an issue (driving age restrictions, insurance costs and older age)?
  • Is a particular activity or place popular with certain age groups?
  • Have you considered the ability to attend meetings or get involved based on age? For example, people who care for young children (typically 25 to 40 year olds) may find evenings and weekends difficult, working age people and students may find week-days difficult.
  • Do different age groups have equal access to the service or benefits? Are any age restrictions legitimate?
  • Could there be any other barriers to participation, by checking for example low numbers compared to the rest of the population? What evidence do you have and what can you do to mitigate those barriers?
  • Other factors that may be relevant to your service (this many be apparent through data and feedback collected and analysed by different age groups).

……what improvements can you make to any issues identified?