Ageism Awareness Day has been designated for this Saturday 7th October to remind all Australians of the harmful and damaging effects of stereotyping, discrimination and mistreatment directed towards older Australians.
The recognition of this day was pioneered by EveryAGE Counts which is Australia’s national campaign against ageism. Ageism Awareness Day has now been recognised around the world including by the American Society on Ageing.
EveryAGE Counts is a national coalition of organisations and individuals including the Australian Human Rights Commission, over 30 local government Councils and over 100 community based, advocacy and research organisations who are working together to tackle these issues in the Australian community.
The results of an EveryAGE Counts major national survey of over 1000 people over 50 years of age last year, revealed that 68% agreed that ageism against older people is a “serious problem in Australia” and this figure increases as people get older.
A spokesperson for the EveryAGE Counts Campaign Robert Tickner said, “ageism is not some hollow empty trendy word, and there was hard evidence that stereotyping and discrimination against older people was damaging to the health and well-being of older Australians in many areas”.
“It often starts when people, in their earlier fifties, are denied jobs or promotions. Later on in life it is often a root cause and contributor to elder abuse and the mistreatment in aged care exposed by the Aged Care Royal Commission”, Mr Tickner said.
“The statistics on unemployment of people over 50 are very revealing. 20 years ago 1 in 20 people who were unemployed were between 50 and 65 but now that figure has doubled to 1 in 10, and worse, these people make up a much larger group among the long term unemployed”.
“All of us, if we live into our fifties or older will be impacted by ageism and that is one of the reasons we support intergenerational solidarity. Older Australians like the rest of the community want to be treated as individuals and not treated differently simply because they are older.”
“There are so many false assumptions about older people which strip them of their agency and right to control their own lives, as our survey also revealed. Things like false assumptions about the inevitability of dementia as we age, lack of capacity of older people in the workforce when many want to, and are capable of, working, and false assumptions about needing help when many want to be self-reliant. Too often older people are talked down to in the community and in health care which further strips them of their autonomy and dignity.”
“Sure some older people may need support but the bottom line is that it is best to see older people as individuals and not make generalised assumptions or gratuitous, thoughtless and offensive jokes about their age.”
“Our EveryAGE Counts website ( everyagecounts.org.au ) features a fabulous publication called “The Real Old” which I encourage people to read. It is a myth busting publication blowing false stereotypes about ageing out of the water,” Mr Tickner said.
“These issues cross party lines and EveryAGE Counts has received support from Ministers responsible for Ageing on both sides of the political fence and we want to keep it that way. These issues are above politics. These issues are about all of us. We are all getting older”.
“The World Health Organisation has found that ageism can be damaging to the health and well-being of older people and can reduce life span by up to 7.5 years as people become disrespected, devalued and robbed of their humanity.”
“We also want to see an Australia where people of different ages are not falsely pitted against each other but where people of all ages are valued and respected. That is another reason we stand for building bridges across the generations”.
Mr Tickner said, “As the Australian population ages these issues are going to become increasingly critical to address and that is why the EveryAGE Counts Campaign believes that there is a need for a national public awareness and education campaign around ageism and its impacts and we are seeking resources to conduct this campaign.”
“Australian politicians from all parties have united to make Age Discrimination illegal in every State and Territory but such discrimination remains rampant as surveys reveal.“
“The challenge is now to change what is in people’s hearts and minds and educate people that age discrimination and exclusion harms us all and diminishes our society.
We can be a world leader in the work of tackling ageism and enhancing the quality of life of people growing older in Australia”, Mr Tickner said
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