ECH Keep Connected

How You Can Help to Tackle Ageism

Ageism is a significant problem for older Australians, who are often discriminated against because of their age.

There are many stereotypes around older people that fuel ageism and contribute to the view that older people are not a valuable part of society, which can have an impact on the wellbeing and mental health of older people.

A campaign lead by the Benevolent Society, supported by organisations including ECH and Every Age Counts, aims to tackle these stereotypes and combat ageism. Research by the Benevolent Society showed that many people lacked awareness of the positive parts of older people’s lives while highly overestimating the negative aspects of ageing. We’ve compiled some ideas on how you can help, by emphasising what’s wonderful about growing older.

Language

The way we talk about older people, and even ourselves, can actually reinforce negative stereotypes of ageing. Phrases like “doddery” “good for her age”, “senior moment” and “sweet old dear” all contribute to the image of older people as frail and incapable.

How You Can Help

Use positive language about yourself and your peers and try to avoid using stereotyped age-related language to explain away any shortfall e.g. forgetfulness as a senior moment – young people forget things too!

Care Needs

A common misconception about age is that older people are frail, have dementia and live in residential care. In fact, only 7% of Australians aged over 65 access residential care, and the vast majority of 71% live at home, while only one in 10 people over 65 have dementia*.

How You Can Help

Wherever possible, remind people not all older people are frail or living with dementia. Most older Australians are choosing to remain living independently at home and many are enjoying their retirement.

Old Is Not Cool In The Media

Every advert on television for face cream and hair dye tells us ‘to avoid looking old’, we must use anti-ageing this and that. Older people appear in adverts for cruises, retirement products, care and funerals or as the cranky character in TV shows – just think of Mrs Mangle in 1980’s Neighbours!

How You Can Help

Wherever you can, talk about some of the absolutely amazing older celebrities. David Attenborough, who at 94 gained more than one million followers on Instagram in under five hours. Judi Dench, still acting and extremely talented at 86 as the very cool ‘M’ in the Daniel Craig Bond films. Clint Eastwood who is still as much of a tough guy at 90 as he was in his youth is still starring in and directing award winning films. And all the others!

Workforce

More than one third of people who are long term unemployed in Australia are over 50. Of those working, more than a quarter felt they had been discriminated against because of their age*. Some employers have even admitted they have recruitment policies that see 50 as an upper limit when recruiting. The impact of this is huge. While on one hand younger generations of employers may see older people as a burden, by denying older people access to work, they are actually creating this problem. A study by Deloitte Access Economics estimates a three per cent increase in participation by the over 55’s would generate a $33 billion annual boost to the national economy*.

How You Can Help

If you are still in work, let your skills shine and show the people around you just how amazing older employees can be. Alternatively, you may be volunteering and giving up your time to benefit the community, and this is something to be proud of and worth talking about.

Economy

A common stereotype applied to older people is that they are a drain on the economy. In actual fact older people often own considerable assets, contribute significantly through retirement spending and holidays, and in their voluntary capacity. For example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that the unpaid time spent by grandparents providing childcare to their grandchildren is worth $4.4 billion per year4*.

Add in all the time older people spend caring for a loved one, in volunteer roles and helping in the community and you’re starting to build a pretty hefty economic contribution.

How You Can Help

Challenge attitudes that older people are an economic burden by using examples of where people participate in unpaid roles or contribute to the economy through retirement living. Maybe mention how many years you paid tax too!

For more information about the Every Age Counts Campaign visit everyagecounts.org.au

1.https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics
2.https://www.cotavic.org.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/07/COTA_Challenging_Ageism.pdf
3. https://humanrights.gov.au/about/news/older-australians-boosting-economy
#:~:text=Deloitte%20Access%20Economics%20estimates%20a,discrimination%20is%20a%20major%20barrier.
4. https://nationalseniors.com.au/uploads/NSA-ResearchReport-Grandparenting-final.pdf