How to dump the stereotyping

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We all recognise those ‘older age’ stereotypes. We see them everywhere in the media and advertising: silly, forgetful older people unable to choose an insurance product or a healthy diet. What many people don’t realise is that these stereotypes can lead to serious discrimination.

Crucially, in the jobs’ market, but also in shops and restaurants and other services, older people are ignored or treated poorly. Stereotypes distort reality by generalising what might be the case in just a few. 

The view that ‘all older people are forgetful’ is usually applied to everyone over 50. Because of this, perfectly capable people are denied jobs. Businesses and the economy are the losers, as well as the capable older people forced into poverty. 

Do all people over 65 have major health problems? 

Facts show that many in this age group are fit and active and contributing, and will remain so for years to come. This older age group also records higher levels of personal happiness. 

To tackle these stereotypes and discrimination, we needed evidence. Our research, Fact or Fiction: Stereotypes of Older Australians provides this. 

We found that too many Australians agree with wrong stereotypes about older people:

  • 59 per cent of Australians feel that older people are more likely to be lonely or isolated
  • 52 per cent feel that older people are more likely to be victims of crime
  • 51 per cent feel older people are more likely to be forgetful
  • 43 per cent feel older people don’t like being told what to do by someone younger.

Older Australians are vastly underrepresented in the media – 14.2 per cent of the population are aged 65 or over, but people of that age are featured in only 4.7 per cent of advertising content, most often as frail or weak, as victims, or in poor health.

So, what should happen?

The media should represent older people realistically, in all their diversity. Advertisers should aim at real older people, not imagined stereotyped versions of them.

The rest of us can challenge stereotypical remarks, start conversations about the contributions of older people, and point to the many older people who you know in jobs and volunteering. And think of yourself thirty years down the track – where would you like to be? 

Why not watch the AHRC’s Power of Oldness video? And of you need more information on unfair stereotyping of older people, visit HumanRights.gov.au.

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Written by susanry

5 Comments

Total Comments: 5
  1. 0
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    Patronizing people are out there – so when you are patronized, just let them get on with it, and patronize as much as they want. They feel good, you are treated royally or like an idiot. Teflon it and enjoy.

  2. 0
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    How many capable older Australians have heard the words (after being called in for a face to face) “We’re looking for a better team fit” once the interviewer actually sees the interviewee? How many older Australians have had to be interviewed by a 25 year old recruiter (whose primary skills are those of sales persons)? How many older Australians are more qualified than the interviewer? How many have had more experience in the industry and position being offered than the interviewer? The agencies – especially the most recent of the government approved ones are often staffed by ‘incompetents’, who are keen to get you on their books (wonder why?!…to justify their own position). I make this claim based on their so-called ‘advice’ on how to improve my chances (suitable for school-leavers) and that I must be prepared to apply for and accept a role beneath my ability (already proven many times over). I’m fit, look younger by at least 10 years than the ‘typical’ media stereo-type for my age group. Frankly, the jobs available are not for older workers. I’ve witnessed government officers speaking of culling the ‘dead-wood’ based on the ages of the workers – not on their ability to do the work. What can Susan Ryan (or anyone else) do about this? How can age discrimination be proved? The government has to introduce measures to make this situation disappear, that is, if they are really serious about increasing the eligibility for the pension to age 70. There aren’t enough jobs for the school leavers! Good Luck in changing our society’s attitude towards older people needing to shift out and free up space for the more youthful!

    • 0
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      Fit and look younger than your years. The other day someone said to me ” You look good for your age, almost alive”. A compliment?

  3. 0
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    Why bother, it is water of a duck’s back.I couldn’t care less what people think of me, never have.I found out from an early age that working for a boss is a mugs game so from my 18th onwards I have looked after myself and employed others as well if needed. When I turned 51 sold the lot and retired. Why work your nut of to accumulate more money, time does not come back.Work to live not the other way around. Use your skills to put back into society in other ways, plenty of opportunities to make yourself usefull in voluntary positions.Plenty of projects on the go, I will be 200 before it is all finished.

  4. 0
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    The stereotype that angers me most is ”the privileged baby boomer who had an easy life, bought a house for next to nothing that is now worth $1 million, and owns investment properties everywhere”. Of course this particular stereotype has been encouraged by the Government branding retirees as ”leaners” and claiming they are an economic burden. It’s disgusting!


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