Older Aussies defying stereotypes

Older Australians are dynamic, youthful and courageous, according to new research conducted by Lumen – and we shouldn’t be surprised.

The research found that 40 per cent of over-50s surveyed were travelling more than they did when they were younger, and 30 per cent were trying new experiences and pushing themselves out of their comfort zones.

The Lumen research was designed to gather information about the attitudes of Australia’s over 50s and, potentially, challenge the ageist stereotypes that permeate society today.

In other findings, an impressive 40 per cent said that they were exercising regularly and felt fitter than they did when they were younger – a finding clearly illustrated by 63-year-old Michael Cottier, believed to be the world’s oldest professional surfer; 55-year-old Tony Angus, who has a 6th degree black belt in the martial art Kenpo 5.0, and 55-year-old Sarah Jane Thompson, who is the oldest participant in her pole dancing classes.

The research follows an international study of the media’s representation of over 50s, which revealed that 86 per cent of the age group felt misrepresented by the media and the images commonly used to reflect them.

Charly Lester, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Lumen, said: “Far too often, the media sweeps anyone over the age of 50 into one 50-plus age bracket, and regularly depicts being ‘over 50’ with images of 70- or 80-year-olds. But there is a huge difference in those age groups.

 




“While 50 might have been the start of old age years ago, today that is just not the case. Today, 50 is far closer to mid-life than to retirement with most 50-year-olds living lives conducive to that of someone in their 30s and 40s, not someone in their 70s and 80s.

“At Lumen, we want to put a stop to ageism and to celebrate people who are 50-plus by highlighting that life is far from done when you hit the ‘big 5-0’.”

Martial art exponent Mr Angus says that 50 is the new 20. “We can’t lose sight of the value that older people bring to the world,” he said. “That is the years spent learning and gathering information, and gathering the philosophies of living … As you start to gather your life experiences, you start to become wiser, and there is something very pleasing about that.”

Ms Thompson said that when she turned 50 she felt empowered to just do whatever she wanted to do and be whatever she wanted to be. “You can start to indulge your passions and really go for it,” she said.

The Lumen research was conducted by Quantum Market Research data online in November and is based on information from about 1000 Australians.

Chief executive of the International Longevity Centre–UK Baroness Sally Greengross said that labels of chronological age were unfair and contributed to ageism.

Labels such as ‘pensioner’ were important at times in the past because pensions were a wonderful invention that allowed older people to live independently.

“It is odd today to call somebody a pensioner. We don’t label people by the method of earning money,” she said.

“We don’t always recognise it, but it is there, underlying our language, underlying what we say and it gives people an excuse to treat us differently as we get older.”

Robert Tickner, co-chair of anti-ageism campaign EveryAGE Counts, said that ageism was perpetuated because of conditioning that older people were of lesser value and less able.

“When there are these ingrained prejudices, they perpetuate stereotyping and discrimination and ultimately even the mistreatment that has occurred against older Australians including in health services, employment and, of course, in aged care.”

Do you believe 50 is the new 30? Is 60 the new 40? Do you feel your age? Has age empowered you?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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