Is Australia doing enough to combat ageism?

Is Australia doing enough to combat ageism?

Social commentator Jane Caro has called out ageism as the “last acceptable prejudice”. Is she right?

Speaking at the media and marketing event Cannes in Cairns, Caro challenged the audience about their decisions in portraying older Australians, or lack thereof. 

“Ageism is the last acceptable prejudice; it is still acceptable to say, ‘Oh… they’re too old’ or ‘Who are we going to fire? Let’s look at everybody over 50, shall we?’” Caro said in a keynote speech. 

“It’s not that there aren’t other prejudices. There are plenty of racists around; look at some of our politicians. There are plenty of sexists around; look at all of our politicians. There are plenty of homophobes around, and we’re back to some of our politicians again. They’re still there, but those prejudices are not acceptable.”

Caro said the perception that people’s value diminished with age was damaging and false. 

“The thing about ageism is that all prejudices are dumb, but ageism is the dumbest prejudice of them all. Why? Because this might come as a shock to those of you in this room, but you will get old so fast it will make your f•••••g head spin.”

Caro said older Australians in general suffered from ageism in the workplace and were often forced into early retirement.

Age discrimination

“Two-thirds of workers aged between 45 and 74 have experienced age discrimination in the workplace – they have been passed over for projects, passed over for promotions, not given the kind of work or the kind of recognition they feel they should or even worse having lost their jobs,” she said. 

“On average, women retire with one-third less super than men and men don’t have enough. 

“Women leaving abusive relationships must choose between living with violence and living in poverty because we tell women to leave but we give them nowhere to go and they give them no money to go with.”

But it’s not just women. Caro highlighted the tragic health statistics for older men. 

“Men over 85 have the highest rate of suicide in Australia – no-one talks about it; 32.7 deaths per 100,000 – compared to 18.8 for all males. I think that’s one of the saddest statistics I’ve ever read,” she said. 

“Older men feel so hopeless, so isolated, so alone, so irrelevant that they take their own lives. 

“Older people generally feel excluded, no longer necessary, no longer paid attention to. 

“That idea of becoming invisible is very real. And the trouble with invisibility is that it’s a profoundly isolated experience. Older people are just 16.8 per cent of the population but commit 22 per cent of suicides.”

Make people older people visible

Caro challenged the audience of advertising creatives to better serve older people in their campaigns to reflect real lives.

“One of the ways we can make old people visible is to occasionally cast some of them in your ads,” she said. 

“And not just for funerals, planes, cruises, and arthritis cures. We go out to dinner, we party. We do all sorts of things – include us, we are just other people, we are just you in a few years’ time, that’s all we are.

“But you leave us out.”

Caro said marketing is missing opportunities by marginalising older people, and just a few simple tweaks could make life much easier. She challenged the audience to use their skills to better serve their buyers. 

“This industry is particularly guilty of unconscious microaggressions that make older people feel excluded and invisible,” she said.

“I am sick of having to put my glasses on every time I go to a shop and want to see what size or price the dress is. Make the type bigger,” she said. 

“It makes us feel useless. Don’t do it. Be clever. Use your imagination.”

Have you been a victim of ageism? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Ageism is far more common than you think 

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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