Multiple discrimination in older age


Older people experience prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination because of their age. Sometimes however it is not age alone which drives unequal treatment. Other forms of discrimination can come into play, such as that based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics.  

In our work, we strive to increase understanding of and address the complex forms of discrimination faced by older people. We aim to highlight the vast diversity of older people and stress how socio-economic status, gender, ethnic background, and other factors influence our experience of later life.  


Understanding multiple discrimination  

Multiple discrimination is an umbrella term used to describe cases when one ground of discrimination interacts with and/or compounds other forms of inequality and disadvantage. Multiple discrimination can manifest in different ways: 

  • Additive discrimination takes place when several grounds operate separately. In this case, the cause of discrimination is additive, because there are distinct sources of inequality that operate independently. For example, an older migrant woman may be subjected to unequal treatment on the three separate but additive grounds of being old, migrant, and a woman. 
  • Intersectional discrimination occurs when two or multiple grounds operate simultaneously and interact in an inseparable manner, producing a unique and qualitatively different form of discrimination than the simple addition of the separate discrimination grounds. Typically, intersectional discrimination causes aggravated, more intense, and systemic/structural forms of disadvantage. An intersectional lens allows us to make visible experiences of discrimination that would otherwise remain undetected using only a single ground analysis. For example, older people with disabilities might experience an increased risk of marginalization or institutionalization that is not shared by younger people with disabilities nor with older people without disabilities.

Moreover, disadvantage earlier in life can result in increased likelihood of inequality in old age. Therefore, discrimination amongst older people also needs to consider the discrimination that people carry with them into old age:

  • Cumulative discrimination refers to the impact of discrimination over time, on several occasions, across domains or throughout an individual’s lifecourse. For example, older Roma are likely to carry with them the cumulative disadvantage of a lifetime of exclusion and deprivation from access to employment, adequate housing, and necessary health care, which may create additional disadvantages in old age.   

Our key demands

  • Recognize and increase visibility of the diversity of older people 

  • Need for more disaggregated data on old age and older people  

  • Adoption of horizontal equal treatment directive covering age discrimination (among other grounds) including multiple discrimination beyond the field of employment 

  • Integration of older age/ageism perspective in the implementation of existing EU equality strategies and action plans  

  • Adoption of an EU Age Equality Strategy as a key tool to fight ageism and multiple discrimination in older age across the EU 

  • More support and funding for organisations representing minority groups and for small grassroots organisations to better address intersectionality in old age and beyond 

How we work

To address multiple forms of inequalities in older age, we work with AGE members and other equality networks, such as the European Disability Forum (EDF)the European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO)the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA Europe), the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), and the European network of equality bodies (Equinet).

Useful links  

To learn more about our work on multiple discrimination click on the following links:


List of AGE members working on multiple discrimination  

On gender equality:

  • Older Women’s Network (Netherlands)
  • Older Women’s Network Europe (EU) 

On older Roma, minority ethnic communities, and/or migrant people:

  • Red Cross (Bulgaria)
  • Eläkeliito (Finland)
  • 50+ Hellas (Greece)
  • Age & Opportunity (Ireland)
  • Anziani e non solo (Italy) 

On older LGBTI people:

  • Zivot 90 via their Rainbow Zivot 90 Initiative (Czech Republic)
  • BAGSO via their members BISS and Lesben und Alter (Germany)
  • 50+ Hellas via their cooperation with Proud Senior Greece (Greece) 
  • Age & Opportunity (Ireland)
  • Anziani e non solo (Italy)
  • CASO 50+ (Portugal)
  • Fundacio 26 de Diciembre (Spain) 

On older people with disabilities:

  • Swedish-speaking Pensioners' Association (Finland)
  • BAGSO via their member Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Association for Rehabilitation, the Association for the Hard of Hearing, or the German Alzheimer Society (Germany)
  • Anziani e non solo (Italy)
  • Zveza društev upokojencev Slovenije (Slovenia)


It should be noted that older people experiencing multiple discrimination may not have the capacity or resources to get involved within civil society organisations. This absence of formal representation shouldn’t prevent us from engaging with representatives of community groups existing at grassroots level and use our platforms to make their voices heard.

If you want to share your work on/experience of multiple discrimination in old age, feel free to get in touch with us. 

Relevant resources

For more information, you may contact Nena Georgantzi:

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The contents of the articles are the sole responsibility of AGE Platform Europe and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.