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New campaign sees ageing Australians take aim at ageism

Senior Australians could have a “key role” to play in breaking down ageism after a 2017 report revealed what is behind the attitudes and beliefs that lead to discrimination.

Ageism in Australia is under the spotlight as part of a new campaign (Source: Shutterstock)
Ageism in Australia is under the spotlight as part of a new campaign (Source: Shutterstock)

The EveryAGE Counts campaign, a push by the Benevolent Society, will see the initiative properly kick off in 2018, will aim to breakdown the barriers and change the perception on what it means to age, by working with other organisations, local communities, experts and older Australians.

Advocacy Campaigner (Older Australians), The Benevolent Society, Joel Pringle says the organisation is committed to addressing ageism over the long term, and through the new campaign, because they know the issue isn’t an “easy fix”, adding that older Australians will have a role to play in busting ageist myths.

“In 2017, we released a report called The Drivers of Ageism that looked into the attitudes and beliefs behind ageist behaviours [and] what we found was that a lot of the beliefs behind the ageist attitudes were based on misinformation about getting older,” he says.

“There is a common perception that older people are living in care facilities with high health and support needs, however only 30 percent of people over the age of 85 are living in residential aged care, and almost 30 percent of people aged 64-69 are also either working or looking for work, despite being eligible for the Age Pension.”

According to the research, people are also concerned about the need to address ageism in the workplace and healthcare settings.

As the campaign develops, Mr Pringle says these are two “likely areas” that they’ll be focussing on, noting that the role of busting some of these myths may be best achieved by having people who are getting older showing that their experiences don’t live up to the stereotypes.

Mr Pringle says the report also reveals that negative attitudes are heavily influenced by a lack of contact with older people in our personal and work lives, and that most Australians think ageism needs to be addressed with Government support.

With one of the “stand-out” results of the research pointing to the fact that increased contact with older people has a positive impact on attitudes towards getting older, Mr Pringle says this information tells us just how much of a “key role” older Australians will have in the success of this new campaign.

“There’s a diversity of people’s experiences, and those affected by ageism are best placed to change attitudes and beliefs by telling their stories amongst their own communities and also taking up the reigns, advocating within their communities for the social changes that will reduce any acceptance of ageism,” Mr Pringle explains.

“We’ll also be looking across areas of government policy and business practices to address instances where people get a rougher trot just because of their age.

“Older people have equal rights to people of other ages, but ageist practices take those rights away from people based purely on their birthdate.”

Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt positions himself as an advocate for change when it comes to ageism, also focusing the need for positive change in the jobs market, saying he hears of ”many stories of older people struggling to find employment”.

“There is no doubt we need to work hard to counter ageism and change the mindset of many people towards senior Australians,” he says.

“Promoting respect for senior Australians is fundamental for a cohesive and inclusive future especially as the proportion of seniors grows rapidly.”

Mr Pringle has also identified the need for immediate action, given the nation’s ageing population.

“This is a critical time for Australia; our population is ageing as baby-boomers are entering the traditional retirement ages and health advances are seeing many people live healthier for longer; the government is reducing access to the age pension and other support; and government and businesses are struggling to catch-up with the new reality of getting older in Australia,” Mr Pringle says.

“We hope that this campaign will increase the awareness of this and lead to Australians becoming less tolerant of ageist behaviours.”

To find out more about the EveryAGE Counts campaign and to track its progress, visit www.everyagecounts.org.au

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