Age discrimination uncovered

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Have you faced age discrimination in your daily life? If so, you’re not alone. According to research, two thirds of Australians over 50 feel that they have been subjected to ageism in their day-to-day lives.

Insurance company, Apia has today launched the findings of a social experiment, exposing the hidden age prejudice in contemporary society. This experiment was carried out in conjunction with a national study designed to reveal common perceptions about those aged over 50 in Australia.

In the experiment, a group of people in their 20s and 30s were asked to assess the abilities of a group of people in their 50s and 60s. Despite the older group consisting of a personal trainer, a race car driver and a drone pilot, the individuals in this group were excluded, with the observing group commonly attributing these traits exclusively to younger people. These traits included being ‘fit and healthy’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘energetic’. At the end of the experiment, the younger group was able to meet the older group and discuss their subconscious age discrimination tendencies.

In addition to two thirds of those over 50 feeling the sting of age discrimination, research results also show that this same group feels easily dismissed and misrepresented by the media.

Apia Executive Manager, Geoff Keogh, says the statistics highlight a job to be done: “The research we undertook revealed some startling insights into perceptions of age in Australia. It’s time to break through this stigma and start conversations around the topic. The social experiment highlighted an underlying prejudice that those involved may not have realised existed. Our campaign aims to demonstrate that life experience should be recognised and respected.”

By exposing the hidden age discrimination in Australia, Apia seeks to encourage mass conversation about the problem. It hopes to create a shift where Australians over 50 will be accurately represented by society and the media, and younger Australians will think twice before drawing conclusions about a person’s capabilities based simply on age.

Apia’s spokesperson and iconic broadcaster Glenn Ridge said, “I’ve found that over 50s continually endeavour to reinvent themselves and adapt to changing times and situations. Staying vibrant, relevant and open to new experiences is something that’s important at any age, not just as the years add up.” 

Why not watch the video of Apia’s social experiment?

Opinion: stand up and fight stereotypes

For those who know where to look for it, older age stereotypes are easy to spot. In the media and in advertising we are shown older people who are unable to use their smartphones, who forget where they put the car keys and who suffer with chronic pain – as if these complaints are confined only to those in this age demographic.

In recent years we’ve seen a large shift in focus towards fairer representation of society’s key marginalised or oppressed groups, including women, homosexual couples – and older Australians.

When we consider that these groups are all seeking the same thing – equal rights and fair treatment – then we can take strength from knowing that we are all in this together. Individuals in these groups don’t want to be cast in the dark anymore and when they are supported by organisations , such as Apia, that stand up for and with them, change happens.

By exposing age prejudice through this social experiment, Apia is playing a significant part in helping individuals recognise the unfair perceptions they may hold.

What can the rest of us do to eradicate ageism? We can challenge the stereotypical remarks of others, begin conversations about the very real capabilities of older people and point to the many remarkable people in your life, who just happen to be over 50.

Why not read our article on fighting age discrimination?

Have you faced age discrimination in your daily life? Do you feel that those over 50 are inaccurately represented by and in the media? What specific changes would you like to see in how over 50s are treated?

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Written by ameliath


Total Comments: 64
  1. 0

    Unfortunately we cannot resolve this problem unless we change the whole lifestyle culture that prevails in our current times.
    Racism is also part of this parcel.
    Being a first generation Australian from N.N. European parents, I have found that the Assies of British backgrounds/descent of which comprise LESS THAN HALF of our population now, are prone to being more racist and ageist.
    This may be due to differing cultural family values and thus child rearing practices because as a former teacher and in nursing, I have noticed that those from Asian and various European families display more caring and cohesion of their family members especially when visiting their sick relative in hospital.

    • 0

      After mentioning racism as a problem you follow this up with stereotypical racist remarks. Well done!

    • 0

      Not to argue your valuable impression but wouldn’t the percentage of those Australians from British antecedents actually be testament to the superficial nature of any racism or bigotry, Mez?

      What I see is a society who, generally, for a century have eagerly welcomed others’ presence, culture and knowledge to an extent which has equated with a great percentage of their total population. A society where what it has taken on of other views has and does grow geometrically so that the views held today would be unrecognisable by someone just a half century ago.

      No-one should think that they have nowhere to change but it can be valuable to marvel on capability where it exists.

    • 0

      Read my post below. You do not understand human nature Mez.

  2. 0

    No personal experience. There does appear to be plenty of appropriate and inappropriate discrimination out there; the appropropriate is fostered by increased understanding and the inappropriate reduced by it.

    A milieu which includes regulation of retirement age can unnecessarily generalise perceptions. We are all different.

    Thankfully no-one has stood on a bus or train for me yet and I guess I will be thankful also when they do. As, for others, they do. In a crammed tram I even saw a young lady with a baby give her seat to one in obviously more need once. The capacity for refined appreciation and empathy of our compatriots really knows no bounds.

    • 0

      Well, my husband and I have been offered seats in trains and buses few times: so, there is hope for you 2!

    • 0

      Give me time MILA, fortunately, no disabilities yet and… I have not graduated to thinking of myself past any prime yet.

      Still, it is fantastic how often we see people respectful of others needs especially if there happens to be less formal training than when we were children. There was a fairly strongly enforced code of behaviour for us which perhaps is more naturally found where it is not so strongly enforced.

  3. 0

    I can remember being in my 20s or early 30s and regarding anyone 60+ as ‘old’ and not somebody I could relate to very well. Besides, I was busy enough with my own age group, both socially and at work, to even care about the different attitudes and needs of people old enough to be my parents.
    It came as a surprise then when I was in my late 50s and entered a room for a job interview to see the looks on the faces of people young enough to be my children who were there to interview me. “Grandpa’s here” they seemed to be saying.
    Now that I’m 72 I just understand that age discrimination is an extension of the same gap that’s always existed between those young ones on the way up and the older people closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.
    If we can keep our skills up to date and learn to sell the benefits of our experience we have a chance. In fact, if there’s one thing governments could do to help overcome age discrimination it’s to make skills updating more accessible.
    We’ll never impress younger generations with our looks; most of them are so afraid of becoming like us they don’t want us around them in their workplace. We have to do it with our experience and abilities and that’s a hard sell.

    • 0

      Terrific comment Phil1943. Skills development must be a life-long challenge. One thing, do you find the young somehow any more accomodating of age than they were 50 or 60 years ago? Like you, at 10 years of age, I would have seen someone at 50 as old, very old and likely someone I would have difficulty relating to. Now, many decades beyond that I dont see the same thing, right through the ages at least to 3/4 my own, much more interest in communicating with and valuing from, perhaps from a less hierachical more equal standpoint.

    • 0

      You miss the point Phil. Many older people can offer things young employees cannot: no Monday and Friday itis. Customer focus and giving the customer what he wants rather than a fob off. A keenness to please rather than just get a pay packet. Life experience and knowledge.
      Please let’s leave the list at that. Having been there and done that does not mean every older worker will be good….but many will.
      Read my post below.

  4. 0

    I find young people in their 20s are very kind probably because I remind them of their Nanna! It’s the 30s and 40s where they can stereotype and usually shocked when I mention some of my skills

  5. 0

    I have not noticed age discrimination. However, I do strongly believe Australia should have a public holiday to recognise the elderly. I think it’s a more important reason than the Melbourne Cup.

  6. 0

    It comes down to two sides of a coin. I have been on jobs where I have been discriminated against because of my age. Other jobs, the opposite, where I set up a pace that motivates others to keep up with and maintain high quality standards. I take the abuse with a pinch of salt and accept praise modestly. One can only change things by setting an example for others to go by.

  7. 0

    On the research itself…while it is humorous and there were some telling young comments the nature of the situation is implicated.

    All three situations considered advertisements.Due to this, respondents would automatically accommodate for the buying power and interest and other sweet spots of the primary market. We all have mobile phones but these would perhaps be the most regularly turned over in the 20 to 45’s age group.Likewise physical fitness training and while white teeth may be important to the older they can relate to sexual attraction to the young and therefor appear more urgent.

    This does not rule out using someone outside that group but the listings of key words, traits etc. did not for example seek an image that would have a sway through wisdom or comparatively long experience or broad life experience. If I were to vote on an image to sell mobile phones I would likely to choose a character from roughly the age where that considers these to be disposable, business tools but also fashion accoutrements. Were I choosing an image for fitness, more than likely I would want to show those who are the largest users of fitness services what they could like.

    Surely we don’t expect equality in these things?

    How about an add for a Supreme Court judge or even an architect or surgeon? Despite there being young among these ranks, in general the most powerful actors tend to be later in years. The same respondents would have chosen differently.

  8. 0

    I don’t have a problem with age discrimination at all, and find everybody wanting to help me, which is funny as I don’t feel I need any help.. But I think it has a lot to do with my own attitude. But I do have a problem with gender discrimination. Optus being the main one.

  9. 0

    Age discrimination is noticeable in the case of drivers and particularly with the media. If an event occurs and an aged person is involved, their age is immediately mentioned and of course this invites all sorts of rhetoric about putting limits on older drivers. For example there was a case when an older driver drove down the wrong side of the highway and although fortunately there was no serious consequences it resulted in adverse comments and demands against all older drivers. A similar event a few weeks later involving a younger driver which in this case did unfortunately result in fatalities, passed without much comment. A particular accident which always attracts a lot of adverse media and public attention is when an older driver engages the wrong gear and drives into someone’s property but attracts no attention when some younger driver does the same thing. For those sceptics, this does happen. I have had it happen to me by a driver in his forties.

  10. 0

    I personally haven’t experienced this, but I found this video deeply confronting and offensive.

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