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Roxanne Pallett explores plight of the elderly in undercover investigation

Published 11/04/2016

Roxanne Pallett is going undercover as an old woman to investigate ageism in the UK (BBC/PA)
Roxanne Pallett is going undercover as an old woman to investigate ageism in the UK (BBC/PA)

Actress Roxanne Pallett looked unrecognisable as she went undercover as an old woman to investigate ageism in the UK.

The former Emmerdale star, who underwent four hours of prosthetics and make-up application to transform into "Doris", said she was "shocked" by how she was treated after heading out onto the streets of Manchester in an experiment for BBC Radio 5 Live.

She said: "It was a pretty brutal experience. I thought it was going to be fun and exciting but it just wasn't.

"It made me feel really lonely, really invisible. I was overlooked and I was ignored and I felt like I was punished because of my age.

"I only went through it for a few hours but it's left me with a really heavy heart."

Pallett, who is an ambassador for Age UK, was appalled by the lack of help she received from passers-by as opposed to when she is dressed as her usual 33-year-old self.

She added: "No one was assisting me and it was obvious I needed help. One man barged me when I was walking down the street, it was like I didn't matter.

"I know for a fact when you're younger you are not treated like that. I've experienced men help me with my suitcase and reach for things.

"There's a lot of chivalry out there but it doesn't seem to apply to older people and that's not right and it's not fair."

BBC 5 Live conducted the social experiment as part of a week of programming looking at ageism ahead of the Queen's 90th birthday.

A ComRes survey conducted for the station of 1,001 Britons revealed that over a quarter (27%) of 55- to 64-year-olds say they have experienced ageism in their daily life, including being served last at bars or being assumed to be deaf.

Surprisingly, the study found 18- to 34-year-olds to be the second most common age group to experience ageism, with 25% of young adults believing it had happened to them.

Three in 10 Britons said they had encountered it at work, while 15% said it was while applying for a job or in a job interview. One of eight even admitted to lying about their age in the past five years.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said that discrimination due to age "should worry us all".

She said: "Whether you are young or old, being discriminated against because people leap to unfair conclusions about you due to your age can have a huge impact on every aspect of your life and crucially on your self-confidence too. "

Pallett will appear on Radio 5 Live's Breakfast show on Monday. Other programming across the week includes a look at older drivers and issues faced by older parents.

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