Communication Strategies and Practices

Ireland: Say No To Ageism Week


Organised by the Equality Authority

1) Brief description of the campaign

The Say No to Ageism Week (SNTA) is an initiative developed by the Equality Authority and the Health Service Executive (H.S.E.) with the support of the Office for Older People, the public transport sector and older people’sorganisations. It has been run annually since 2004.

The aim of the week is to promote new awareness and understanding of ageism and of how ageism excludes older people from participating in and contributing to society.

The Say No to Ageism Week comprises two complementary strands: a public information campaign and a series of sectorally based actions that are designed to enhance age friendly service provision.

Currently, the working framework for Say No to Ageism Week comprises a balance between awareness raising and actions, namely:

  • a launch event;
  • a conference with a Say No to Ageism theme;
  • an advertising and media campaign;
  • action plans developed by different sectors in association with the Equality Authority to support the initiative in the year ahead.

2011 was the eighth year of the initiative, co-funded in 2011 by the European Union under the PROGRESS Programme 2007-2013.

2) General objectives of the campaign

The Employment Equality Act (1998 – 2011) and the Equal Status Act (2000 – 2011) outlaw discrimination in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services and other opportunities to which the public generally have access on nine distinct grounds. These grounds are gender, civil status, family status, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, religious belief and membership of the Traveller Community.

The Equality Authority wished to focus a public campaign on ageism because it is possibly the only equality ground where there is a widespread lack of understanding or recognition of what ageism is and its consequences at societal, organisational and individual level. Research and statistics gathered through our Public Information Centre showed that there was a high level of queries recorded under the ‘Age’ ground. In 2010, 19.3% of case-files under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2011 and 12.6% of case-files under the Equal Status Acts 2000 – 2011 were related to perceived age discrimination.

The Say No to Ageism Week has two main purposes:

  • To highlight how ageism operates in society, in the workplace and in the provision of services;
  • To promote and support the development of “age friendly” service provision.

The rationale for an ongoing campaign against ageism is strong. There is a wealth of evidence that negative stereotyping of and discrimination against older people is pervasive and injurious. The statistics gathered through the Equality Authority and Equality Tribunal systems have supported this belief.

3) Specific objectives of the campaign

The Say No To Ageism Week has been held in May on an annual basis since 2004. The aim of the week is to promote new awareness and understanding of ageism and of how ageism excludes older people from participating in and contributing to society.

2009.png In order to progress the above goals, the Say No To Ageism campaign promotes its message through a combination of outdoor advertising, internet, and poster campaigns. It activates its anti-ageism/age friendly message through sectorally based measures that are designed to shape and encourage age friendly service provision. An event launch is held to open the Say No To Ageism Week which is attended by stakeholders such as NGOs, policy makers, community groups, academics, members of the general public and the media, and which generates considerable media coverage.

Each year, a sectoral based issue is highlighted. Since 2004, a conference dealing with a specific issue, chosen with input from stakeholders, is held. These conferences have addressed issues such as defining ageism, developing an age equality agenda for Ireland, awareness workshops for health service personnel entitled ‘Good Practice in Age Friendly Provision of Services’, developing good practice guides with the transport sector in dealing with transport issues for older people. In 2008, a conference entitled ‘Active for Life: Towards Age Friendly Sports and Leisure Facilities in Ireland’ was organised. It examined the barriers experienced by older people in adopting and maintaining physically active lifestyles.

In 2010/2011 information queries and cases handled by the Equality Authority pointed to a particular problem with the insurance industry in Ireland in terms of ageist practices. There is considerable demand among older people’s organizations for actions to tackle this problem. Consequently, the Equality Authority chose to emphasize this in their 2011 SNTA seminar ‘Accessing Insurance for Older People in Ireland and the European Union’. It also planned to work on a sectoral project with the insurance industry to highlight their obligations under the non-discrimination legislation and to seek to get them to improve their practices and to move to an age-friendly model.

4) Target audiences

[*The general public*] (raising public awareness): this is done through the use of advertising (posters, billboards, etc.) and facilitated through the media;

[*Older people:*] this is facilitated through the public awareness campaign, working alongside older people’s groups, the Authority’s contact database, and the H.S.E.

[*Stakeholders/Policy makers, older people’s groups, NGOs, etc*] this is done through the dissemination of information to mailing lists, through relationships with other involved groups and through the campaign’s launch event and seminar;

[*Sectoral Approach:*] each year a specific sectoral area, with an issue affecting older people, is targeted (e.g. the hospitality sector).

5) Stakeholders involved and the difficulties encountered and surpassed while managining the relationship with them

To ensure that the SNTA campaign achieves its full potential, a wide range of partner organisations and stakeholders are involved in all stages of the campaign, particularly in the planning stages.

[*Government bodies*] involved include the Health Service Executive (H.S.E.), The Office for Older People based in the Department of Health & Children and Pobal (an intermediary agency that works on behalf of Government to support communities and local agencies toward achieving social inclusion, reconciliation and equality).

[*The transport sector*] is represented on the SNTA committee by Dublin Bus, Veolia (Luas) and Irish Rail.

[*Active organisations*] working within the age sector included Age & Opportunity, Age Action, AGE Platform and OWN (Older Women’s Network).

[*The Equality Authority’s*] role was to bring about a change in attitude and practice not only in society but in key service areas. By bringing the service providers into partnership a certain amount of compromise is always necessary to be balanced with the gains achieved by their direct participation. Therefore, the campaigns did not need to ‘name and shame’ a sector, or its management, but rather posed challenges that could be globally embraced in its advertising messages. Service delivery did improve with the undertaking of action projects within the service provider which proved useful and valuable.

6) Resources and budget

The Say No To Ageism Campaign of the Equality Authority is supported through funding from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity – PROGRESS. In 2011 this amounted to 37.502 Euros(excl. VAT). This was to fund design costs, materials and media promotion of the campaign.

The Health Service Executive (H.S.E.) as a partner organisation contributed 15.000 Euros. Dissemination of materials was co-organised and facilitated through H.S.E. networks.

Stakeholders from the transport sector (Dublin Bus, Veolia and Irish Rail) provide advertising space on their transport network at no financial cost.

7) Detailed description of the communication channels used and messages conveyed. How did the organisers connect with their audiences? Possible pitfalls to be avoided.

2011.png The Say No To Ageism campaign is aimed at a variety of target groups, through two main strands: a public information strand and a sectoral based project. A public awareness campaign is run throughout the week, focusing on the central message of ‘I Say No To Ageism’. The focus on awareness is in recognition that ageism will only be eliminated where there is a broad awareness of the stereotyping of older people.

The public campaign strand is achieved through a variety of means:

  • Outdoor advertising conveying the ‘I Say No To Ageism’ message is placed nationwide at strategic locations such as major billboards and advertising locations. Stakeholders from public transport agencies such as Dublin Bus and Veolia provide advertising space on their transport networks.
  • Extensive media interviews are conducted generating debate on radio and print networks. This aims to bring the issue of ageism to a mainstream audience.
  • Increasingly online media is used through social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • An initiative which was commended in the 2004 review involves the targeted sending of posters to locations which are specifically used by the target group of older people or in areas where the issue of ageism may be of particular importance. In addition to being areas frequented by target groups, they are also locations in which further information on the message of the posters can be received. These locations include local health centres, community groups, active retirement groups and Universities.

The second strand of the project involves selecting and working with a particular sector to provide training and develop initiatives within that sector which combat ageism or ageist practices.

For example, the transport sector, comprising of Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Veolia (LUAS), Bus Éireann and the Rural Transport Initiative, joined the initiative in 2006 and produced an action plan to promote more age friendly transport.

Highlights of the action programme include:

[*Dialogue with older people*] – organising meetings with organisations of older people to explore age friendly practices;

[*Training*] – providing age awareness training to customer service staff and front line staff involved in the provision of services;

[*Communication*] – reviewing and developing information materials to ensure they are user friendly and accessible to older people;

[*Customer service*] – developing and communicating a policy that includes a focus on age friendly customer services in consultation with older people and their organisations.

These sectoral approaches have been highlighted as having a real impact directly upon the lives of older people, in a practical way.

8) Explanation of the mechanisms put in place to evaluate and monitor the campaign

The Say No To Ageism campaign has been in existence since 2004. With such a long running campaign, the importance of review is paramount to ensure that the core ideals behind the drive are not misplaced, to ensure the campaign is reaching its target audiences, and to assess ways of keeping the campaign fresh.

There are many methods in place for evaluating and monitoring the campaign:


In 2008, after the fourth year of the campaign, a review of the Say No To Ageism initiative was commissioned and conducted. This report was conducted by a research and evaluation psychologist and the Terms of
Reference given were as follows:

  • Explore the continuing relevance of Say No to Ageism Week;
  • Ascertain the views of the organising agencies involved in Say No to Ageism Week and relevant stakeholders on previous campaigns and the future direction of the initiatives;
  • Examine the impact and potential future impact of the current approach to Say No to Ageism Week;
  • Identify the most effective use of the resources available to further the shared aims of the organising agencies;
  • Assess the impact of the work done in past Say No to Ageism Weeks;
  • Identify, and provide a rationale, for options to build on and further develop the initiative.

The review was separated into seven sections – Introduction; Methodology; Legislation, Definition and Evidence of Ageism; Description of Say No to Ageism Week; Income & Expenditure; Stakeholder Feedback on Say No to Ageism Week Activities; Impact, Effectiveness and Future Relevance; Conclusions and Options for Consideration.

The research incorporated desk research and stakeholder consultations. The desk research strand comprised a review of policy and publicity material, examination of the minutes and accounts of Say No to Ageism Week partnership and a focused literature review.

Stakeholder consultations were held with: the Equality Authority; Health Service Executive (two sources); National Council on Age and Older People (three sources); Age and Opportunity; Dublin Bus; Bus Éireann; Irish Rail; Irish Hospitality Institute and ILAM, the Industry Body for Sports, Fitness, Aquatic Facilities, Spas & Wellness.

A structured interview guide was designed and designed and piloted with the HSE and National Council on Aging and Older People (see Appendix 1 below). It reflects the Terms of Reference for the review and

  • targeting and content – who activities are aimed at and what has being done;
  • strategy and tactics – the means by which anti ageism policy is effected and how;
  • budget and resources – what’s being spent and to what effect;
  • effectiveness and impact – the extent to which the campaign is meeting its objectives and the results achieved.

Two focus groups (one urban, one rural) with active retirement groups were arranged with the help of Age and Opportunity. The themes addressed by the Focus Groups included:

  • awareness of Say No to Ageism Week;
  • need for a Say No to Ageism Week (SNTA);
  • areas older people experiences of ageism or discrimination;
  • the appropriateness of the SNTA focus on transport, health, leisure and hospitality;
  • the effectiveness of public information campaigns to overcome ageism; importance of the campaign for the future.

The focus groups were well attended (10-12 for each session) and there was active participation by all attendees in the discussions that emerged.

The information gathered from the stakeholder interviews, focus groups and questionnaires was analysed thematically and consistent findings were recorded. These themes and the issues arising, together with findings from the desk research, fed into an assessment of the extent to which the Say No to Ageism Week is achieving its objectives and the impact and relevance of the scheme. The analysis was strongly reliant on the stakeholder interviews and is (with the exception of the examination of spend) entirely qualitative, based on emergent themes.

From the anecdotal evidence available, (website blogs, feedback to the Equality Authority and to the reviewer from older people) there seems to be reasonably good awareness of the week, particularly in Dublin, and it has prompted debate. Furthermore, the older people consulted think the public awareness campaign is important and that it makes people think about older people’s contribution to society and their needs.

In terms of the poster element of the public awareness campaign, feedback from stakeholders indicates that it was more effective in sectoral settings than public places, where the linkage of local initiatives with a larger national campaign was said to endorse its importance.

The review found that :

  • the Say No to Ageism Week is meeting a real need to raise awareness and increase understanding of ageism, particularly in the nominated sectors. It has developed a range of sectorally based responses to encourage age friendly service provision and to challenge the negative stereotyping of older people. The strong commitment, engagement and working relationship between the partners and with the sectoral stakeholders has led to the development of a campaign that has far greater impact than the sum of its parts. Overall, it has been successfully and thoughtfully implemented and has had positive impacts on service providers understanding of and capacity to meet the needs of their older clients and customers. All of the partners and sectoral participants in the Say No to Ageism Week are fully committed to the campaign and its continuance;
  • The key drivers of its success to date and its future are: (1) commitment of the Health Service Executive, National Council on Ageing and Older People and the Equality Authority partnership and the specialised support from the Equality Authority; (2) linkage with high profile Equality Authority age discrimination cases; (3) strategic/holistic approach that is mainstreamed into customer care/service policies; (4) direct consultation with older client groups;(5) stakeholder sense of being involved in longer term rather than project driven process; (6) availability of development funding to sectoral participants to encourage and support their involvement in training, conferences etc.; (7) the quality of training provided.

[*Public Information Centre*]

The Public Information Centre of the Equality Authority provides information on the working of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2008, the Equal Status Acts 2000 and 2008. The Public Information Centre also makes information available on the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005, and the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006. All queries to the Public Information Centre, via telephone call, email, fax or post, are recorded to a central database. This database and the nature of the calls recorded allow us to monitor how effective the campaign is being.

As mentioned previously, each year a sectoral based project is initiated. The theme for this project is selected by a pre-planning meeting of the the stakeholders involved, however valuable information about issues which are currently affecting older people can be determined from the types of queries which are recorded through the Public Information Centre.

[*Media Monitoring*]

Media coverage of the event and articles related to the campaign are monitored closely. The promotion of the week presents the opportunity for increased quantities of media interviews e.g. radio interviews, which allow the Equality Authority to monitor how the issue is being covered across the country.

[*Social Networking*]

As part of the campaign, social media outlets are used. These include Facebook, Twitter and Facebook adverts. These are monitored using ‘insight’ programmes to gauge the level of interaction with our promotions.

[*Data Collection/Surveys*]

Short survey forms are handed out at the end of every event such as the launch, seminar or training (See Appendix Two). These allow us to evaluate all events and our campaign. There are also opportunities for attendees to become members of our mailing list for further information targeting.

9) Lessons learned and pitfalls to be avoided

With decreasing funds available, the focus of the campaign had to be addressed. While the public awareness campaign has been successful, the issue has been raised that it is the attempt to change service providers’ behaviour that is more important than the views of the general mass-market campaign. A valuable lesson to take away from the Say No To Ageism project is that practical initiatives which target and provide tailored training for specific sectors can often have a very beneficial outcome. This is not to detract from the work of attempting to develop a public wide debate over the issue, but it is a testament to the Say No To Ageism campaign’s success that this awareness was backed up with developing changes at sectoral level.

A further lesson learned is in the choice of medium used to target a specific group – in this case older people – and bearing that in mind when developing any strategy. The Say No To Ageism campaign has always relied upon striking posters which convey the central ‘I Say No to Ageism’ message, while also provoking some thought or debate on the matter.

The first of the series of posters for the Say No to Ageism campaign was produced in 2005.

EA_1.jpg The 2005 poster challenges the public to see past external age whether at the younger or older trajectory of lived experience, to the person within.

EA_2.jpg The poster for the 2006 campaign was of a long line of birthday candles representing a celebration of ageing while also encouraging everyone to reflect on the stereotypes of older and younger people that we hold.

EA_3.jpg The 2007 poster campaign highlighted some of the findings from an ageism survey that was conducted on behalf of the Equality Authority and asked viewers to consider their own attitude to ageism.

EA_4.jpg The 2008 Say No to Ageism Week drew further attention to how older people are stereotyped by society. Outdoor advertising posters showed blackand- white images of older people with the labels “useless”, “grumpy”, “past it”, “burden” and “washed up”, while smiling pictures of younger people, shown in colour, were simply branded by their names: “Steve” and “Lisa”.

There was a wide spectrum of views on the 2008 poster campaign, which sparked some controversy, ranging from it being ‘brilliant and attracted a huge amount of publicity’ to ‘It might have been a bit too clever’. The poster had been misinterpreted, and appeared to offend some people as a result, leading to representations in the Dáil and calls for its removal from health service settings. Feedback from older people appears to have been largely positive however. Most of the stakeholders thought the poster very well designed but it may have been too complex for a public information campaign and would have worked better in a workshop or seminar setting.

10) Additional information
To access a slideshow with all the posters used in the campaign in the past few years, please click here.


[**Targeting and Content*]

1. What prompted the initiation of/your involvement with the week?
2. Who are its target audiences?
3. To what extent is it reaching those audiences?
4. Are there some groups that are harder to engage than others?
5. Which target audiences should be the prioritized and why?
6. How well are the key messages of Say No to Ageism week being communicated? (highlighting ageism and how it operates, i.e. stereotyping, and the message of promoting positive ageing)
7. Do those messages need to be refined or re-prioritised in any way?

[**Strategy and Tactics*]

8. The strategy in the past balanced promotional activity with direct action, how do you think this strategy is going to shift in light of budgetary constraints?

9. Which elements:

  • a launch event;
  • a conference with a Say No to Ageism theme;
  • an advertising and media campaign;
  • action plans developed by different sectors in association with the Equality Authority to support the initiative in the year ahead

…worked well in past? How do you know – what evidence is there?

10. What is the main rationale for the week from 2009 onwards?
11. What (if any) changes in strategy are needed?
12. What (if any) changes in tactics are needed?

[**Budget and Resources*]

13. Can you quantify the in-kind support your organisation provided to the Say No Week?
14. How effectively have the resources for the week been utilised?
15. Can you identify any cost savings that could be made?
16. What should the future priorities be in the context of smaller budget?
17. Is the timing of the Say No Week optimal/ any changes needed?
18. What are your views on the effectiveness of the partnership structure?
19. Do you have any further comments about any aspect of the initiative?


[**Conference Feedback Questionnaire for the Launch of Say No To Ageism – 30th May 2011*]

Please scale the following aspects of the event on a 1–5 basis, where 5 signifies “yes, agree strongly”, and 1 signifies “no, disagree strongly”:

1. Did the event match your needs?
2. Did you gain relevant knowledge and information?
3. Will you be able to apply such knowledge and information in your work?


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