Ageism towards older people is rife.

It’s a social construct that brings together stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. And the way things are going, sooner or later, most of us will experience ageism throughout society, and even in the church. It comes from poor examples set for us by others in their attitudes and use of language, it comes from fear of death and of ageing, and it comes from denial – not facing up to the fact that ageing will likely happen to us too. 

It seeps into our culture when we don’t call it out.

Ageism is madness really – as if anyone can help ageing. Whether we’re three years old, or 17, 42, 68 or 91, most of us will get older. Hallelujah. God designed us to age, and that’s a good thing. Ageing means living. Life is the antidote to death. And the Bible tells us that age is a divine blessing – it’s God’s glory revealed through His creation – you and me.


There’s no ageism in the Bible. We’re called to love our neighbours as ourselves. God has no favourites. We are all loved equally, and nobody has cause to put themselves above another. Instead, we see people like Moses, Joshua and Anna living incredible lives for God well into old age. In the scriptures, age distinguishes people in a good way – the wisdom and experience gleaned over a lifetime, shared with younger generations, who are honoured and privileged to learn from those in later life.

In 1 Timothy, we’re reminded not to rebuke an older man harshly but exhort him as if he were our father… and to treat older women as mothers.

And Jesus, who regularly spoke out on behalf of those on the margins, led us in a beautiful example when He prioritised and entrusted the care of His mother to John even from the cross. A reminder that we’re to make good provision for the welfare and care of older people in our midst.

Much like in the Bible, when we take the time to notice, we see that our communities are filled with people in later life living to the full, taking risks, looking after themselves, learning new things, supporting their families financially and practically, being creative, keeping fit, praying for their neighbours, and still going on new adventures. Isn’t it wonderful!

"In the scriptures, age distinguishes people in a good way – the wisdom and experience gleaned over a lifetime, shared with younger generations, who are honoured and privileged to learn from those in later life."

Although not entirely exempt from ageism, the church already leads in a wonderful example of honouring older age – where else in society do we see such an army of older people engaged in effective preaching, mentoring, children’s work, serving on trustee boards, welcoming, mass catering, praying, and more?

But as with all areas of life, we can always do better, and when it comes to ageism, we have a vested interest to do so – after all – we’re all getting older.

So, what can churches do?

The church is well positioned, experienced and motivated to express genuine love and care for older people, to reject ageism, and to encourage and facilitate meaningful and purposeful engagement into later life.

They can do this by understanding and celebrating the age profile of their membership, identifying leadership for ministry among older people, and promoting involvement of older people at all levels and in all areas of church life.

International Day of Older Persons

This year, the International Day of Older Persons, led by the UN, is calling for the fulfilment of the promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for older persons.

We encourage individuals to write to their MP asking them to sign our Early Day Motion in parliament, to add voice to the work being done to address the important area of ageism in our society.

Prayer and celebration

We encourage churches to pray for older people on 1 October and to use this opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate their older friends. Resources are available on the Faith in Later Life website to help support this.

It’s time to call out ageism in all the places we see it happen. And it’s time for us to be honest with ourselves if we are the ones who, without meaning to be, are negative about ageing sometimes. It’s time to make a positive difference in our culture, to eradicate ageism, and allow God’s beautiful view of ageing to be at the heart of our attitudes and behaviours towards older people.