A quarter of millennials believe it is normal for older people to be unhappy and depressed, a poll has found.
And two in five 18 to 24-year-olds think that dementia is inevitable in later life, according to researchers.
Anti-ageism campaigners said such defeatist attitudes had a negative impact on public health and needed to change.
The survey of 2,000 adults by the Royal Society for Public Health and the charitable Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation looked at ageist attitudes across 12 areas of life.
The public were most ageist about appearance, memory loss and taking part in physical and community activities, it found.
Millennials – those aged 18 to 34 – had the most negative outlook, while attitudes towards ageing were nearly three times more positive among those from black ethnic backgrounds.The researchers called for policy changes to create a more positive outlook on ageing.
Suggestions included ending the term ‘anti-ageing’ in cosmetics and merging nurseries and care homes to promote integration between generations.
Shirley Cramer, of the RSPH, said such measures would help ‘many more to look forward to later life as a period of opportunity for growth and new experiences’ – and improve public health in the long term.