Age Concern is calling on British businesses to sign a public commitment to get rid of age discrimination in the workplace.
The charity's new campaign, Break the Age Barrier, draws attention to the high levels of unemployment in the over-50s. It was launched in London last week by Prince Charles, a patron of the charity.
It is hoped that more than a 1,000 companies will sign the pledge. At the launch, the Nationwide building society became the first employer to do so.
Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern England, said: "Business leaders have a huge role to play in shaping the way we see age, and we simply can't respond to the challenge of our ageing society without them.
"We've set ourselves an ambitious target to work with the business community to ensure that age equality is delivered, providing real benefits to business, older workers and the UK economy."
The appeal follows a poll by ICM for Age Concern which showed that three-quarters of adults opposed enforced retirement.
Almost a third of people over 50 in the UK are not in full-time employment, and it is estimated that by 2020, a third of the population will be in this age group.
When EU legislation comes into effect in December 2006, it will be illegal to discriminate in the workplace on the grounds of age.
"Our case studies show that older workers did want to remain in the workplace, but have found barriers to recruitment," said a spokeswoman for Age Concern.
One older Nationwide employee introduced to the Prince Charles at the launch was Michael Partrige, aged 54. "Since joining Nationwide at the age of 52 as an adviser in their call centre, I have been promoted to senior adviser and am now on a fast track training programme that will give me the opportunity to become a team manager," he said.