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Ageism is a bigger problem than gender inequality. We still fear ageing


Discrimination based on age is even more deeply rooted in Czech society than much-discussed gender inequality. We are afraid of ageing and often unwilling to accept it, says Lucie Vidovićová, a SYRI sociologist from Masaryk University. The Czech approach to ageing may well be about to change in connection with expected pension reforms.

Czech society thinks within a three-box model. “According to this approach, we are educated when we are young, then we work, and afterwards we should rest,” says Vidovićová. “This approach is not ideal because it lacks an appreciation of graduality in the process of leaving a job for retirement. For instance, we can leave the labour market for a while, devote ourselves to caregiving duties and further education at the age of sixty, then return to work in a different position. This should be nothing unusual.”

In relation to pension reforms, the topic of ageing is currently hotly discussed. We are caught in a paradox: although we know that the pension age will rise, people in their fifties are struggling to find jobs. “Losing your job when you are over fifty is very stressful. I believe this is something we can change,” says Vidovićová.

Experts describe this situation as ageism. In simple terms, ageism means stereotyping of and discrimination against others based on their age. Vidovićová says that the problem with ageism is broader still. “We are limited by our fascination with age,” Vidovićová says. “We are in thrall to pigeonholing. Every form must have its age column. The number is important for the system. This whole phenomenon is something we’re still getting to grips with.”

To understand the problem, we should realize that ageing is an everyday process that starts at birth. There is no point in hiding it, although this is precisely what society tries to do. “It makes no sense to stigmatize older age. It is better to look forward to it and make plans for different stages of our lives,” Vidovićová adds. “Society should be more open-minded. This stage of life can be more fulfilling and more joyful than many of us make it.”

The expert believes that the current discussion about pension reform provides an opportunity for reflection on how to deal with the issue. “It is a great opportunity for generations to come together, to learn what life means at its different stages,” she says.


Mgr. Lucie Vidovićová Ph.D.

Position: Senior researcher
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