Older Australians are tired of being treated like a burden

Older Australians are tired of being treated like an economic burden, say YourLifeChoices members, with around three quarters saying they are treated as a liability by governments and the community in general.

The Friday Flash Poll: Perceptions of older people had 680 respondents mostly aged between 60 and 79, with 78 per cent retired, 14 per cent nearing retirement and eight per cent not thinking about retirement.

Around one third (30 per cent) receive a full-Age Pension, 24 per cent were fully self-funded retirees and 24 per cent were partly self-funded. A total of 15 per cent were employed either full-time, part-time or casually.

Almost four in 10 (39 per cent) feel they are treated by society as an economic burden, with another 35 per cent saying they sometimes feel that way. Only 19 per cent said they did not feel like a burden and eight per cent said they ‘somewhat’ feel that way.

In fact, most members took umbrage at the fact that they are seen as a burden.

“I take umbrage at anyone, whoever they may be, making the comment that the older generation is a burden on society. Speaking for myself and probably for most of my generation, I went straight from high school into a job at age 16 and, apart from the two years when I had my children, I worked until I retired at age 70. And, after that, did my fair share of volunteering. I was born during World War II years, so my parents struggled with rationing and food shortages and, of course, the uncertainties of war. Once I married, my husband and I worked hard to save a deposit for a house which didn’t come with all mod cons… We decided not to start a family until we could provide for our children. So, I don’t think anybody has the right to regard my generation as a burden – we paid our way and paid our taxes, even when the going was tough,” wrote Arjan.

“[I’m] 54 and earn a full-time income and have paid taxes for 36 years, I also am made to feel stupid, worthless and past my prime, when the opposite is true. It’s not only pensioners but anyone over 40 who are treated as a burden, taking jobs away from the young etc. The truth is the experience and knowledge I bring to my place of employment could not be replaced with a younger person, which is true of any older person who has spent a lifetime working. Try every day to dispel the myths of ageing and present ageing in a positive way, as a gift that not everyone enjoys!” wrote Ted Wards.

Some are a little more sympathetic to the plight of younger people.

“The reality is times have changed. Our young people do not have the luxury of definite ongoing employment. For the most part, it is casual and intermittent … so their chance of ever getting a loan is zilch! Add to that the fact that housing is not affordable for most of them. Perhaps a better way to look at this is that you have enjoyed the fruits of a better life … one that will not be available to most of them,” wrote Pentop.

Still, older people believe the current economic situation can be overcome by the youth of today and say that although older generations had some favourable winds blowing in their direction, there were plenty of other challenges over which to prevail.

“I do agree that jobs tend to be not as permanent as they used to be, but I think some of that is because people have more opportunities in different areas. When I was young, the opportunities for me were either the steelworks or the mines…” wrote Jim.

When it comes to the community recognising the contributions made to society by older people, 90 per cent said they’re always, sometimes or somewhat overlooked. Only 10 per cent feel they get their dues.

“Yes, I for one am dismayed by the attitude about us ‘oldies’ being a ‘burden’ on society. Some people need a reality check. I am not against the vast majority of millennials at all, nor am I a grumpy old fart, however, a reality check and appreciation and sincere respect of what us baby boomers have accomplished is warranted,” wrote David.

A recent paper by the Australian Institute of Family Studies measured the contribution of unpaid work by those aged 55 and over to be $74 billion. There’s also the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ (BoMaD) to consider, with research revealing it to be the fifth biggest lender in Australia, with $65.3 billion lent to adult children, mostly to help them buy property. Unpaid carers and volunteers provide huge contributions to society, often helping out those who are either overlooked by government policies or who can’t afford the cost of care or even food.

“What about the many retirees who work volunteering tirelessly for the betterment of their respective communities? A burden? No bloody way! Australia would rapidly grind to a halt without we volunteering seniors,” wrote Culgoa.

“It has been calculated that if retirees withdrew from unpaid work, then governments would need to fund more than the cost of the Age Pension to pay others to carry out these tasks. The fact is that many people never stop working, they just modify the way in which they contribute to society,” wrote Maelcolium.

Almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) feel that other countries treat older people better than they do in Australia, with 27 per cent saying they are unsure and just five per cent saying Australia treats the older generation just fine.

“Have a look at the stats to see how we compare to other countries on how much is allocated to welfare/pensions. Australia has a 3.5 per cent of its GDP as against OECD of 7.8 per cent. Of course these boys don’t want us to see these figures as it shows what a bad job they are doing,” wrote Deejay.

“As long as politicians get their huge salaries and perks, how the hell do you think these lot care about aged pensioners? The base rate of the Age Pension needs to be increased significantly to avoid more pension poverty, but this will never happen because these highly educated pollies simply don’t care,” he added.

In fact, many respondents say the current crop of politicians is simply out of touch with the plight of real Australians.

“The true burden is the retired pollies who get a huge pension and do not need it with all their wealth, never asset tested. This is what is ruining this country – too many perks for the few who think they are entitled. Can’t wait for the next generation to make drastic changes,” wrote Musicveg.

With many older people saying they are tired of being treated as a burden, could there be a rude awakening at the federal election.

“The comment ‘Australia spends an average of 3.5 per cent of its GDP on age-related spending against an OECD average of 7.8 per cent’ says it all. We may not be one of the meanest countries in the OECD, we may be the meanest. Retirees need to act now using their collective strength (three million plus being approximately 20 per cent of the electorate), and throw them out,” wrote GeorgeM.

As angry as many older people are about society’s perceptions of them, Mandy has a positive message for young and ‘old’.

“Life is a journey and we are all somewhere along the road. None of us stay young forever. Not all are fortunate enough to reach old age … I suggest to those still young enough, to strive to work towards making the world a place where they would like to enjoy their retirement rather than trying to make it worse for those who are trying to make the best of what they have got. Otherwise they may inherit a future generation who wants to pull the rug from under their feet,” wrote Mandy.

YourLifeChoices strives to portray the value and contributions of older Australians, so we asked our members if they thought we were doing a good job in that department. We were staggered by the response. Four in five respondents said we always or mostly do a good job advocating for the rights and entitlements due to older people. However, as with all things, there is room for improvement – and we take up the challenge to do more.

Are you prepared to send a message to the major parties in the next federal election? What do you think could be done to change the perception of older people?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?
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