A public policy expert has called for more direct action to stop growing ageism and intergenerational wars.
Myfan Jordan, the Social Innovation Projects Manager at think tank Per Capita, told YourLifeChoices “fear-mongering being caused by those who are pitting the generations against each other” has to end.
She has helped design Money for Jam, a recently launched business training project for older women at risk of poverty. Ms Jordan hopes the training will help to turn their hobbies into micro-enterprises and boost womens’ self-esteem in the face of growing discrimination.
“Few people want to be a burden when they are older. So it is really important for s to get behind a full range of opportunities to ease them into self-sufficiency,” Ms Jordan told YourLifeChoices.
Per Capita has recruited 15 Melbourne women for the pilot project.
Ms Jordan hopes that it will eventually be rolled out across Australia, but admits that funding will be a challenge.
Per Capita Executive Director Emma Dawson told ABC News on Friday that women aged 50 and over were the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia.
She said “many older women have specific skillsets that can generate income, but they often need assistance to create an effective business model”.
If the 18-month pilot succeeds, the organisation would like to make Money for Jam available to welfare groups around the nation.
Ms Jordan said the program is more than just about teaching business skills.
“We need to build emotional well-being, too,” she said. “This is especially vital for women who are put off from going into business because they perceive it as too competitive and hyper masculine.
“Following the building up of self-esteem, they are taught about identifying a market, selling online and micro-business management tools.”
Per Capita is also working on developing a free, smartphone app to make the Money for Jam program more widely available. Ms Jordan hopes to recruit 40 older women to trial the app early next year. Readers interested in the program can email her here.
Last week, Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson sounded a warning to employers: rid your workplace of ageist practices or be answerable to her when older workers complained about being sidelined.
Speaking at a Future of Work forum, she noted that ‘age’, compared with other areas of inclusion, may drop off bosses’ radars completely.
Yet, as the population ages, the issue remains the elephant in the room. Older Australians face discrimination in their jobs as much as a growing disrespect from the diminishing pool of younger workers.
Long before our society reaches a point where seniors are treated like pariahs, workplaces need to be re-educated and governments must force the issue to avoid increasing intergenerational tensions.
Dr Patterson said that in 2015, there were 4.7 people of working age supporting every older person over 65. As that demographic swells proportionately, in 40 years time there will be just 2.7 workers for every person over 65.
The brains behind Money For Jam, Myfan Jordan, told YourLifeChoices that it was imperative for the Federal Government to “show leadership in challenging ageism”.
“We live in a pervasive, ageist world,” she said. “This notion that there is a bunch of cashed-up retirees running around creating the housing affordability crisis is a diversionary tactic.
“Older Australians did not necessarily create the world as it is … the Government should do more to nip these perceptions in the bud.”
With respect for seniors seemingly diminishing, action is needed to switch off the unfounded views that older people have damaged prospects for younger Aussies and that their roles in the workplace are limited.
As Dr Patterson said: “Older workers are a significant part of the future of our workforce and age inclusion is critical for the growth of our businesses and economy. It is a conversation that the corporate world can’t afford not to have.
“It is, therefore, a demographic and economic imperative that older Australians are encouraged and supported to remain in the workforce for longer if they are willing and able to do so.
“This is consistent with the current Government’s policy and governments at all levels must take an active role in progressing this.”
An education campaign is needed now to change attitudes towards older Australians … to change discriminatory practices and views that will lead to growing mental health problems.
Dr Patterson encapsulated this phenomenon with the retelling of the story of Susan Jackson-Wood, a 65-year-old, Adelaide corporate relations manager whose self-esteem was so wrecked by co-workers that she suffered a nervous breakdown.
The Commissioner then rightfully reminded the audience that barring a premature death, they would all end up being old one day.
If younger generations wish to be treated with respect and dignity when they are seniors, they have to begin changing society’s mindset today. Otherwise, they too will live out their twilight years facing the discrimination they mete out today.
Have you been discriminated at work? Have you missed out on a job because you were ‘over qualified’? Should governments run campaigns to re-educate society against ageism?
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