In a gaffe that left his audience seething, Mr Yeo suggested there were some occupations for which some people were too old - such as those involving high technology and computers. Mr Yeo was accused of being patronising when he said: 'There are enormous advantages of having an older person as a receptionist.'
Being patronised by politicians was a pet hate of older people, according to two surveys on attitudes on ageism organised to mark the launch of the year.
Mr Yeo also made himself unpopular when he suggested that a key finding in the surveys - that a majority of British people felt their pension was inadequate - was unreliable.
Encouraging older people to be more politically aware and stand up for their rights is one of the aims of the EC's European Year of Older People and Solidarity Between Generations.
Throughout the year events are being held to combat ageism, promote health and leisure activities, remove barriers to social and environmental integration, encourage more older people to volunteer for community work such as meals on wheels, encourage more mixing between the generations - and to ban the word elderly.
Being called elderly emerged as one of the universal dislikes of people questioned in the twin surveys. Most wanted to be called older people or senior citizens; others preferred to be called mature or retired.
The main problems reported were financial difficulties and loneliness. Younger people were also very concerned that their pensions would be inadequate.
In the EC, a majority of people said they wanted long-term care to be financed by compulsory insurance. Britons favoured public services financed by taxation. - Age and Attitudes: Main Results from a Eurobarometer Survey; free from UK Secretariat Age Concern, 1268 London Road, SW16 and EC, 8 Storey's Gate, London SWI.