Research summary - Intersectional discrimination and aging

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Intersectional Discrimination and Aging – A Literature review

Author of report: Dr. Sharon Koehn (Sharon Koehn Research Consulting)

Why this study

Older adults face unfair situations because of their age, but as well because of their:

  • gender
  • sexual orientation and identity
  • ethnic background
  • social standing or class

Intersectional discrimination happens when 2 or more of these factors act together. This creates unique forms of discrimination.

Because of this, older people who face intersectional discrimination often suffer more neglect and have unique challenges.

This review helps build the evidence needed to support better policies and programs for older adults. It expands our knowledge of intersectional discrimination that affects older Canadians.

What we did

We granted a contract to Dr. Sharon Koehn to conduct a literature review on the intersectional discrimination of older adults. She did a review of more than 200 sources. She provided a summary report and analysis of the literature.

What we found

Ageism is widespread in Canadian society. Studying intersectional discrimination allows us to:

  • understand the compounding effects of multiple forms of oppression
  • create fairness in many situations that relate to ageism

Intersectional discrimination has an effect on older adults. Those who are the most likely to face prejudice during their life are most likely to experience ageism later in life. The following factors add to the drawbacks of what they go through:

  • ill health
  • disability
  • poverty
  • social exclusion

Older adults may also feel the need to meet society's standards of youthful beauty and fitness. This can lead to discrimination and stigmatization. Women, and sometimes gay men, are more likely to feel this pressure.

What it means

This research will aid our goal to build a more inclusive country. It also helps support our goals to increase inclusion and ways for people to take part in their communities.

Contact us

Employment and Social Development Canada, Income and Social Development Branch, Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat.


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