This qualitative study examines meanings and experiences of ageism for older Australians. While the concept is widely applied in academic social analysis, the term is not understood or used by many of the informants. They talk freely, however, about negative experiences in ‘being seen as old’ and ‘being treated as old’. Active ageing is viewed as a positive way of presenting and interpreting oneself as separate from the ‘old’ group. Informants recognise that older people as a group experience negative treatment in terms of poor access to transport and housing, low incomes, forced retirement and inadequate nursing home care. While few have experienced overt or brutal ageism, interaction in everyday life involves some negative treatment, occasional positive ‘sageism’, and others ‘keeping watch’ for one's vulnerabilities. Health professionals are a major source of ageist treatment. Some older people limit their lives by accommodating ageism, while others actively negotiate new images of ageing for themselves and those who will be old in the future.
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