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New elder Academy aims to challenge ageism

A well-known national program aimed at challenging ageism and building respect for older people is branching out to deliver even better outcomes for older Australians, following the launch of their latest focus initiative.

Dr Catherine Barrett with the two Academy Fellows (Source: Celebrate Ageing)
Dr Catherine Barrett with the two Academy Fellows (Source: Celebrate Ageing)

Director and founder of the Celebrate Ageing program, Dr Catherine Barrett, launched her new initiative - the Elder Leadership Academy - at the recent South Australian Gerontology (SAGe) Conference 2018 in Adelaide, South Australia.

Dr Barrett says she is excited about The Academy launch and what it is giving its Fellows and Graduates.

“I am so excited to be launching The Academy because it is an ethically-just, powerful and effective approach to addressing ageism,” she says.

“The Academy challenges ageist norms of older people as not contributing to society… it empowers elders, people aged 65 and over, to work on ageism.”

Dr Barrett explains that elders, through The Academy, can work on issues they find important by working on them as projects.

“To graduate as a Fellow of the Elder Leadership Academy means recognition for contributions made to a particular project challenging ageism,” she says.

“All the projects that are being completed, and those that are complete, have arisen from issues identified by elders.

“Typically, an elder presents an issue that they are passionate about and want to address, which is followed by the elders’ ideas for what needs to be done to achieve change.

“If there is a fit with the Celebrate Ageing Program, I will offer the elder a Fellowship which means that we brainstorm the project and document a project proposal and present it to funding bodies.

“From there, the elder co-leads the project and we work together.

“There are lots of conversations and meetings along to way, and the elder graduates as a Fellow of the Academy when the project’s outcomes have been achieved.”

68 year old graduate Anne Tudor is one of the two elders who have already successfully completed their projects through the Elder Leadership Academy, with the support of Dr Barrett.

“I have been involved in a number of initiatives supporting older Australians ever since I first met Catherine in 2016 - and this was just another one,” Ms Tudor explains.

“Being made a Fellow was quite an honour for myself and Edie - we are really chuffed.

“We don’t do any of what we do for the recognition but that whole idea of the Academy recognising elders for making significant contributions in the community is a very important thing."

Dr Barrett says it was a “pleasure” working with both Anne and second graduate 67 year old Edie Mayhew on their projects that she says achieved “significant outcomes”.

She adds that there are many ways that people can support the Academy and its successes.

“People can help spread the word by sharing the Academy page on social media, by making a donation, or by suggesting a project,” Dr Barrett says.

“Service providers can also support the approach of the Academy by undertaking a critique of the role elders play in their work to address ageism and build an age-friendly world.”

Dr Barrett says a further six Fellowships are currently underway and will be announced at the Embolden Festival/Conference in October.

Outputs and outcomes from all projects will also be documented on the Academy webpage.

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