Ageism is alive and well in Australia. We may not directly see it, or feel as though we participate in it, but it is there – all around us.
One of the major topics in the Aged Care Royal Commission revolves around ageism. If society were not ageist then our older adults living in aged care facilities would never be mistreated. Even in community care we see older adults experiencing belittlement and mistreatment. Now that is ageism at its very core.
We urgently need to address these issues and change people’s perceptions and attitudes. Did you know that by 2058 nearly 4% of Australia’s population will be over the age of 85 and older? This means more people will require support than ever before, but will there be enough support available financially and through labour. By making changes on a personal, community and government level we can ensure that older adults are respected and revered members of society. This directly links back to ageist attitudes at various levels.
Ageism comes in many forms, and it is not always black and white
We see it in the Federal Government:
- The aged care workforce is undervalued and definitely underpaid when comparing experience, skill level and education with other sectors
- Not enough money is invested in ensuring organisations are recruiting trained staff
- Not enough money is injected into Home Care Packages – the current waiting-lists far outstrip the current availability
- Without an overhaul of the whole aged care system how will we attract enough quality care staff to deliver services to an ever-increasing population?
- Regulating the carer workforce could potentially lead to better quality staff working in organisations where they feel respected and valued
We see it at work:
- Youth is preferred over experience
- Older adults who have so much to offer and are willing to work can’t find suitable jobs
- Redundancies often impact older workers
- Younger managers can display negative attitudes to older team members
We see it in advertising:
- Sure, we are seeing more and more age-positive media exposure, but still not enough when ageist attitudes are very evident in magazines, TV, movies, and social media
We see it in our communities:
- Is your suburb or town age-friendly?
- Do shop keepers and café staff treat older adults the same way they treat their younger customers?
- Is it easy for an older adult using a mobility aid (walking stick, walking frame, wheelchair) to get around, cross the road safely, and be able to do all their shopping without worry about tripping?
- There should be education programs that all businesses must partake in that enlighten participants around ageism towards older adults, the ageing process, and how to respond to someone with cognitive decline
We see it in ourselves:
- What language do you use? Without even realising it we make ageist comments. “Come on old girl”, “stop fluffing about like an old woman”, “she’s such an old bag”, “he’s a grumpy old so-and-so” – these might seem funny, but they are ageist comments.
If we live long enough, most of us are going to get old, so think about how you will want to be treated as you age.
What are your thoughts on attitudes towards older adults? Leave any comments below – I would love to know what you think about this topic.