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Should the ‘elderly’ traffic warning sign be banned? Does it leads to discrimination against the over-50s ?

by on November 18, 2014

Well this item has certainly generated a great deal of press coverage and reader comments. In case you haven’t seen it, the starting point was a call by Ros Altmann, the UK Government’s Older Workers Business Champion, for the removal of road signs warning motorists of ‘elderly people’ on the grounds that it perpetuates a false perception of older people, reinforcing negative stereotypes and deterring employers from recruiting job seekers over the age of 50.  The signs are meant to warn drivers of less-mobile pedestrians.

The story is covered here in The Independent and here in The Daily Mail.  It is reported that Ms Altmann hopes to bring the issue to the women and equalities minister Jo Swinson at a meeting next month.

A brief perusal of the reader comments, particularly those in the Mail Online, suggests that many of those engaging with the story dispute the conclusion that the signs lead to discrimination against older workers. The gist of many comments seems to be that the sign depicts ‘elderly people’ and can’t in any way relate to the much younger group of ‘over 50s’ who might be looking for work.

The wording ‘elderly people’, that used to appear with the sign, was removed in 2003 following a campaign by what were then the charities Age Concern and Help the Aged (now jointly Age UK) – though you wouldn’t think so judging from the stock images that have been used to illustrate this item in the press which nearly all feature the original text. And of course, the term ‘elderly’ is one that many have disparaged as demeaning to the old. So it would be rather ironic if the removal of the wording had enabled the association of the visual representation of physical frailty with a chronologically younger group of job seekers, the over 50s.

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