There is no doubt that in our increasingly image-conscious and superficially focused times, age discrimination presents a creeping civil rights problem. The tendency to judge the professional and social worth of a person on the basis of his or her apparent age can present artificial barriers to employment and respect. Moreover, age discrimination can dramatically compound sex discrimination, as such problems are often felt more acutely by older women. Therefore, it is no surprise to see recurring campaigns to promote positive attitudes towards people right across the age-spectrum, run by charitable organizations such as Age UK as well as by publications such as Mature Times.
As with any advocacy campaign, new research that provides insights into age discrimination must be seen as important. Scientifically gathered empirical evidence can be crucial in debunking negative stereotypes and in bolstering positive claims. But, alas, not all research is the same — some is little more than advertising propaganda promulgated by capitalists who see vulnerable social groups as lucrative target markets, whose concerns about social exclusion simply make them more likely to spend their money on a solution.
Unfortunately, it appears that advocacy groups are often ill-equipped to identify the difference. Continue reading “An age-old problem: Public relations as science”