Ageism is a growing problem in society that is often overlooked. Ceiling age, often referred to as a ‘barrier age’, is a concept that denotes the maximum age a person is considered acceptable to possess, perform, or maintain certain roles or activities in life. This varies by society and industry, and can have a large impact on a person’s life. This article will discuss the concept of ceiling age, and its implications on society.

Ceiling age is a relatively new concept that has only recently been discussed in the literature. It was first coined by social psychologist and gerontologist, Margret Gullette, in her book, ‘Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older Persons’ (Gullette, 2004). She described ceiling age as ‘the age at which an individual is considered too old for a particular role or activity, regardless of his or her skills, health, or experience’. Ceiling age is often used to enforce age-related stereotypes and is closely linked to ageism.

The concept of ceiling age is particularly pertinent in the labour market, where it is often used to discriminate against older workers. Age discrimination in the labour market is a growing problem, with a recent report from the European Commission finding that older workers are more likely to be unemployed than their younger counterparts (European Commission, 2020). This has led to the introduction of age discrimination laws in many countries, which prohibit employers from setting a ceiling age for employees.

However, despite these laws, evidence suggests that ceiling age is still a problem in the labour market. A study by Hübler and colleagues (2020) found that older workers were more likely to be passed over for job opportunities than their younger counterparts. The study also found that ceiling age was more likely to be enforced in industries that require physical strength or knowledge of new technology, suggesting that ageism is still a problem in the labour market.

The concept of ceiling age is also applicable to other areas of life, such as education, health care, and leisure activities. For example, a study by Sargent and colleagues (2019) found that some universities have set a ceiling age for students, meaning that older students are less likely to be accepted than younger students. Similarly, some leisure activities, such as skydiving and bungee jumping, are often restricted to people under a certain age due to safety concerns.

In conclusion, ceiling age is a concept that has been shown to have an impact on a person’s life, particularly in the labour market. Despite the introduction of age discrimination laws, evidence suggests that ceiling age is still a problem in many industries. It is also applicable to other areas of life, such as education, health care, and leisure activities. It is therefore important that the issue of ceiling age is addressed to ensure that everyone is able to access the same opportunities and activities, regardless of age.


European Commission. (2020). Towards fair and inclusive labour markets for all ages. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1150

Gullette, M. (2004). Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hübler, A., Böhnke, J. R., & Wagner, G. G. (2020). Age discrimination in the labor market: does a ceiling age exist? Journal of the Economics of Ageing, 19, 100297. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeoa.2020.100297

Sargent, L., Fitzpatrick, M., & Stock, C. (2019). Ageism in higher education: The impact of ceiling age on the admissions process. Ageing and Society, 39(5), 1020-1037. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X17001653

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