The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed for an end to damaging stereotypes of older people, which he says have created a climate in which they suffer abuse.
In his final speech in the House of Lords, Dr Rowan Williams said attitudes of "contempt and exasperation" towards the ageing population were contributing to a range of abuse, from patronising and impatient behaviour to physical mistreatment.
He referred to estimates that a quarter of the older population experience elder abuse in some form and called for the Government to appoint a national Older People's Commissioner, the Independent reported.
Dr Williams, who will step down from his role at the end of the year to be replaced by the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, said: "Too often we want to rush children into pseudo-adulthood; too often we want older citizens either to go on as part of the productive machine as long as possible or to accept a marginal and humiliating status, tolerated but not valued, while we look impatiently at our watches, waiting for them to be 'off our hands'.
"We tolerate a very eccentric view of the good life or the ideal life as one that can be lived only for a few years between, say, 18 and 40."
"It is assumptions about the basically passive character of the older population that foster attitudes of contempt and exasperation, and ultimately create a climate in which abuse occurs."
The public are becoming "dangerously used" to speaking and thinking about the ageing population as a burden on both public and private resources, he added, despite half of over 60s carrying out volunteer work worth the equivalent of at least £50 billion.
He believes expecting and valuing their continued contribution to society will end damaging stereotypes and older people will no longer be viewed as dependent on the state, their families or their neighbourhoods.