One person in three believes age discrimination is worse now than it was five years ago, a survey suggests.
Age Concern has launched its first national billboard campaign
Three-quarters of those questioned did not think age discrimination would improve over the next five years and 28% thought it would get worse.
Age Concern - which conducted the research on 850 people over 16 - says the government needs to intervene.
"Ageism is the last form of legal discrimination. It is often invisible and endemic in our culture," it said.
The charity says ageism is both legal and institutionalised, many companies have upper age limits on products such as travel and car insurance and a person can be sacked from their job for being too old.
Certain types of health care - such as breast screening - are also limited for over-70s.
However, more than nine out of 10 of those surveyed said those over 70 should have equal access to health services and 77% thought this should be the case for products and services.
The survey comes as Age Concern launches its first national billboard campaign, Ageism Exists.
Single equality body
Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern England, said: "The cult of youth does not match the reality of people's lives and we are living in the age of the older person.
"It's time for the government to take action to give older people the rights and equality they need and deserve."
Age Concern added that it was "crucial" that the government's proposed single equality body, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, be included in this month's Queen's Speech.
It says there is a need for a statutory body to ensure that older workers can seek advice on their rights after new laws outlawing ageism at work are introduced in 2006.
Malcolm Wicks, the minister for pensions, said legislation removing age discrimination from employment was important, but "it will not change attitudes and culture overnight".
He said that the best people for the job should be employed - regardless of age - otherwise "it will start affecting your profit margin".
His department runs an "age positive" campaign to educate employers about tackling ageism in the workplace, ahead of the 2006 change in legislation.
Ageism is wrong and should not be allowed, but if it is outlawed will it stop? No. All that will stop is that there will be no paper trail to indicate that a person was denied the opportunity to work due to their age.
In this country employers have found that it is difficult to find the knowledge and expertise in younger employees that older employees possess. That is not to say that ageism does not exist, but it is becoming less and less prevalent.
Many older workers decide on their own that they no longer desire to work full time but are not ready to quit work entirely. A market exists for those people to go back to work as a consultant which lowers the benefit cost to the company and provides the desired work and income to the older person.
Since your entire setup is so different from ours, I do not know if this would be an option there.
J.D.Gann, Arlington, Texas USA
Age descrimination has always existed. Before it was 'pushed under the carpet'. As the population is living longer, age descrimination is now being recognised as a problem.
H La-Montagne, London, England
Ageisim does exist. After 50 noone will entertain your job application (but you can work as contractor). After 55 your wages are frozen. After 55 in office you are NOT considered from promotions.
VS, Zurich Switzerland