Ageism is a part of daily life for older Australians

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An overwhelming number of older Australians experience ageism in their daily lives, says the results of the YourLifeChoices Friday Flash Poll Ageism: How it works and how it affects the afflicted.

On this International Day of Older Persons, and on any other day, ageism is an increasing problem that requires addressing now more than ever.

Globally, there are around 700 million people over the age of 60 and, by 2050, that number is expected to increase to 2 billion. The United Nations Principles for Older Persons, adopted in 1991, rightfully focuses on various initiatives to try and address problems, such as ageism, that will increase as the population ages.

While racism and sexism are continual hot button topics, ageism, so far, has been largely off the radar.

Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and arguably the world’s most prominent anti-ageism activist, says that while ageism, racism and sexism may be a reflection of fear, ageism is unique in that this fear targets our future selves.

“No prejudice is rational,” says Ms Applewhite. “But with ageism, we have internalised it. We have been complicit in our own marginalisation and it will require active consciousness-raising to correct that, just as the women’s movement did.

“When you recognise it in yourself and then realise you can come together with others to effect social change, it radicalises you. Stanford University sociologist Doug McAdam calls it cognitive liberation.

“The next step is collective action. The rewards are real. I hear regularly from people who have begun to reject age shame that they feel instantly relieved and empowered.”

An article in Guardian Australia encapsulates one cause of ageism. It says that consumerism encourages people to fight ageing – a battle, deep down, we all know we can’t win – and a deep-seated fear of ageing is borne once we fully realise we can’t win that war.

The United Nations International Day for Older Persons (UNIDOP) celebrates the importance of promoting the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons.

“Growing older does not diminish a person’s inherent dignity and fundamental rights,” states UNIDOP.

How do we better reintegrate older people into society? By recognising how we marginalise them.

The YourLifeChoices Friday Flash Poll Ageism: How it works and how it affects the afflicted, hoped to highlight the plight of older people who experience ageism on a daily basis.

Of the 1031 respondents, 67 per cent said they have experienced ageism. When asked what form it took, 29 per cent said ‘being ignored’, 21 per cent said ‘treated rudely’ and 13 per cent said ‘being insulted’.

That’s where ageism really cuts to the quick. It’s one thing to be treated rudely or insulted, but you can react to this treatment. Being ignored leaves you no recourse, no way to fight back. It’s highly likely that the ones being ignored were also the most vulnerable older people – those on the Age Pension who can’t afford to throw their weight, or their money, around.

It’s a common complaint about ageing: when you turn a certain age you become ‘invisible’. What dignity is afforded the ignored?

When asked where ageism is experienced in everyday life, the workplace was the worst with 16 per cent, with 23 per cent first experiencing ageism in the workplace in their 50s and 21 per cent in their 60s.

The workplace was closely followed by shopping with 14 per cent. Nine per cent said they experienced ageism on the phone with customer service agents and eight per cent said Government departments, such as Medicare and Centrelink, and while driving. Six per cent said in the street, or in restaurants or cafés and, most concerning, within the family.

If family is not a safe haven for older people, then what hope do they have outside the home?

It seems that ‘oldies’ stick together, with 85 per cent claiming they have never experienced ageism from someone their own age or older, 87 per cent saying they have never been guilty of being ageist and 67 per cent saying they fight ageism whenever they can.

As to the question of whether ageism is as bad as racism, sexism or religious persecution, 73 per cent said yes and almost eight in 10 said ageism should become illegal in the same way as racial vilification. And spare a thought for older women, too, who are more likely than men to experience the double-edged sword of ageism and sexism – 60 per cent of those who responded say that this is indeed the case.

Perhaps the most saddening result was the 78 per cent of older Australians who feel that respect for the older generation has declined.

While it would be foolish to promote ‘blanket veneration’ for all older people – after all, respect must be earned – it is this overall regard for preceding generations that needs to be reinstated, be it through addressing ageism or reinstituting basic social graces such as ‘respect your elders’.

Maybe the fact that older people have lived through all sorts of global and local turmoil and triumphs, in a period that is undoubtedly the fastest-moving, quickest-evolving era in history should be enough to warrant our respect.

However, maybe older people also need to consider that the generations that follow were or are under their tutelage in some form. Maybe there’s some ‘to and fro’ on this argument. Instead of pointing fingers, maybe there’s some blame to be accepted on both sides before a resolution can occur.

Regardless, the basic rights of older people can no longer be ignored. Simple things such as treating them equally and with dignity, listening when they are speaking, helping them when they need help and seeking their experience and wisdom, rather than treating them as ‘past it’ will go a long way. Most older people don’t want to be ‘elevated’, they just want to be heard and acknowledged and allowed to live with the same dignity and same rights we all enjoy.

YourLifeChoices’ members offered their take on ageism and how it affects them. Here’s what they had to say.

Your opinion: Is ageism as bad as racism and sexism?

The following comments are the various opinions of YourLifeChoices’ members and not that of the publisher. Some have been edited to keep to the point. If you would like to read all the comments made, head to our Ageism: How it works and how it affects the afflicted thread.

“You need a better understanding of what ageism is … we experience it our whole lives. My first incident was in my 30s and now in my 50s it gets worse and worse. This attitude that ageism only affects people over 65 is part of the problem. No matter how old you are there will always be people younger than you, from the young blonde at the bar who will ignore you if there’s a young guy also standing there, no matter how long she has kept you waiting, to older people who think younger people know nothing and are ruining this country, forgetting that they were the generation who either taught them or their grandchildren. Well done for starting a conversation about this though …” ~ Ted Wards

“I’ve never even thought about such things, I just get on with life. I would like to see ageism defined, I mean, how do young folk think when it comes to us ‘oldies’ getting special treatment like discounts on many levels? That might be ageism, hey?” ~ HDRider

“If retirees banded together and en masse refused to shop at any business which refused to hire them then there would never be a problem. Imagine what effect all of us no longer shopping at Woolworths would have on that business. It would go broke and the next day older workers would suddenly be offered jobs. Problem fixed.” ~ MICK

“There is some overwhelming evidence of older people who want to work but are being kicked out of the workforce. At Centrelink there is some overwhelming evidence of young people, not wanting to work, but being made to work. Forget about the young ones who don’t want to work, they will come looking for it when they are ready. Let the oldies undertake the work on a casual basis on top of the pension.” ~ Charlie

“If only the younger generation would draw knowledge from us we would continue to feel useful well into old age. Instead they keep reinventing things that we have already discovered and used. I spent a lifetime learning and acquiring knowledge. I could sell it if I was still young. Ageism is detrimental to our country’s progress and should be illegal.” ~ Oznorm

“The LNP is guilty of ageism when they stole pensioners’ entitlements through changes to the pensioner assets test. They knew how to get away with this theft by promising 2.5 million pensioners they would be better or no worse off, and then stealing from 330,000 claiming a budget emergency [and hanging] us old folks out to dry. Now in election mode, billions are on the table.” ~ Mad as hell

Do you experience ageism on a daily basis? Do you empathise with our members’ experiences? What can be done to fight ageism?

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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?



Total Comments: 25
  1. 0

    Older Australians are only being done over because they fail to unite and exert their influence.
    We could kick out ANY government we did not like if we all voted in a block irrespective of who we liked or disliked. We could also do the same with companies we buy or trade with as they would go broke if we no longer purchased anything from them.
    The problem we have is that retirees simply do not have the intelligence to do what is required preferring instead to follow their ‘beliefs’ or ‘wants’. So we get what we deserve. It’s as simple as that so who is to blame?

    • 0

      I agree. We have become an easy target over the years and all governments have run propaganda campaigns targeting the older population.

    • 0

      BY labelling ALL retirees as unintelligent, you have just stooped into the practice of ageism which is exactly what the article highlights. Your commentary underlines the problem where people regard the aged as having particular characteristics based on their age. This is a gross generalisation and ignores the reality that everyone is an individual with their own unique set of values, character and needs, irrespective of their age.

      Your comment about the inability of the elderly to force change by mobilisation describes the problem and not the solution. When you have determined the resolution to the problem, then feel free to make informed statements. Think about the obvious barriers to a solution rather than making sweeping statements which create the very problem of pigeon holing people by their age, gender, social status or whatever other quantifier that takes your fancy.

      The article highlights the problem of marginalisation of the elderly. The solution will be found in discussion about how to identify mutually agreed pathways to an outcome that will decrease or even eradicate this marginalisation. Throwaway single solution comments are unhelpful as they entrench marginalisation. Open up your mind to creative solutions rather than passing judgement that deliver self gratification at the expense of the self worth of your fellow humans.

      Just for the record – I am NOT unintelligent.

    • 0

      Lets not be politically correct maelcolium. That does zip.
      Whilst I am guilty as charges my point is that retirees are set in their ways and produce their own misery because they play the game according to those who control us rather than by using the ballot box for what it was intended: democracy.
      For the record…..please do not insult my intelligence by claiming that we have a democracy!

    • 0

      Mick it is way simpler than that. Old people are not learning the rules and playing the game. They are also way too polite and get easily fobbed off. Not this OG.

    • 0

      Speak for yourself there Mick. don’t attempt to fit all of us into your tiny little box, open up the lid and let the light shine in. It may do you some good. All the best by the way.

    • 0

      We all need to stamp on the media headlines and politicians parroting the same things over and over again, “Government worried about our ageing population “ “Elderly put strain on the ambulance service “ “Joe Hockey warns that the age pension will bankrupt Australia” and the list goes on.

    • 0

      Polly ester – no point being a princess and being offended when somebody DOES open the lid. I made the point above that I was drawing a long bow and I do understand that not all are tarred with the brush I discussed. The sad reality is that MOST ARE. I see it on this website. I see it on media discussion groups. I hear it in the street.
      The reality is very few people see the game of life for what it is and live in a fairyland somewhere between ‘democracy’ (what they tell us we have) and ga-ga-land (the King’s New Clothes). If you and others cannot appreciate that the masses are slaves of the rich then they have done a great job to fool you. And by the way slavery these days is economic rather than physical.

  2. 0

    Just be on the look out as there is an email doing the rounds that Is about ALDI looking after their customers and it is a fake. My virus checkers picked it up and advised me not to open it. I checked who it was from and yes it’s not good at all.

  3. 0

    When I was quite young, – middle high school, my grandma lived with us for a while, so I got to hear her opinions a fair bit, and she was working looking after ‘old people’, some nursing home, – very critical about old people, – “lazy, demanding, quarrelsome, can’t think for themselves, greedy” – she was I guess about 93 years old at the time and had been looking after old people for nearly 10 years, – from when she was 82 to 92, decided to learn Italian when she was 93, had hoped to hit the century but died not long after she turned 96, tough old fighter.
    So yes, we have this element in older folk, thinking they are ‘entitled’ just because they are old, – when she was older than them! and that element seem to allways vote what their parents did, think the thoughts their forbears thought, and generally not relate much to their fellows. – this element deserves like all of us oldies, care, but not respect, and I question that that particular classification should be allowed to vote, particularly on issues the our current generation will have to deal with right now, like Global Warming, – many of this classification “do not believe”, in Global warming so will automatically vote against any particular political party that wants to mitigate it.
    Not wanting to go into Denial or any other psychiatric phemomena, but just straight practicallity, how will it help our children and grand children to survive the future if we /they are chained by the old and stupid, who vote conistently to send our Earth, our home, to hell in a bread basket?

    • 0

      Good observation. You are lucky to have had a great role model.
      The reality of life is that those who make money from despicable destructive industries SIMPLY DO NOT CARE because they know they will have a great life and leave the suffering and death to their descendants. We have people who think that way on this website as well. Despicable folk who care about number 1 and by all means don’t speak against anything which financially impacts ME.
      This is why I refuse to own shares in companies which deal in human misery. James Hardy (asbestos) is one. Cigarette companies are another. Coal companies are yet another. Plenty more.
      If people all gave a damn and voted out bad crooked governments like the current one whilst letting incoming governments know what their fate would be if they tried it on then our country would be being run entirely different. Unfortunately the electorate is generally brain dead, puppets of the media and care not as long as they have their footy and enough money for grog at the weekend (oversimplification!). You get the point. Any wonder we are where we are?

    • 0

      Well… who wouldn’t be a querulous old bustard given the treatment handed out to older people these days by many young twerps?

    • 0

      Understood TREBOR….but fix it! How does the old saying go “united we stand, divided we fall”? From where I stand looks like falling because too many of us want their own flavour and football team. The house wins.

  4. 0

    Hello All… I am just wondering how much of a percentage of voters we are as pensionners … If we assume that we are divided as regard to whom we are voting for, irrespective of reasons for, it leaves me to think that our votes have no power. We are not unified in what we perceive as being our best interest for all of us …. The politicians would already know this for decades … So their spill is void of substance by the time they get on the throne … The level of knowledge, information etc…that each one of us claim to have will never be sufficient to harness a very large lobby of retire people that could effectually sway the elections anywhere unless they could allie with some other groups that would seek support that they do not get… I never vote . The system in place ins not conducive to proper democy … Its a pure mockery of the term. Even in switzerland they could claim more democracy than anywhere else on the planet….

    • 0

      We recently saw Kerry Stokes (7 Network) and Rupert Murdoch (News Corporation) hold a meeting to decide on chucking out Turnbull and replacing him. Dutton was ruled out. He did not win. And then the two bastards began discussing which side was going to win the election.
      If this is ‘democracy’ then I need to call this for what it is: corruption at work. Who needs to waste money on a fake election if this is how it is done.

  5. 0

    Yes Mick, people who simply don’t care have become a disease that Society will have to cure or die.
    There has been an evolution towards individualisation, necessary, but it is a two edged sword, you can become an individual in the true Christian model, of trying to love each person you meet, as an individual on the way to loving all human kind, or you can get stuck on the lower level of over extended childhood, me me me, which is the end result of Neo-Liberalism and the cause of the death of many civilisations in the past.
    An interesting article on the subject, which is really in the direction of replacing egocentric behaviour with conscious group behaviour I found today, – you may enjoy, – Cheers, Geoff.

  6. 0

    Could the ‘ glorification’ of youth, by media and society in general these days have any bearing on this subject?

    • 0

      I think you’re right. It’s all about the young today on TV, movies, magazines etc. Young & sexy sells. Old & wrinkled doesn’t – fact of life I guess?

    • 0

      Also Barbara, there is a long term shift in consciousness from Tribal to Individual, so it is not just limited to the next generation, – they have simply been identified by the advertising sharpies as currently the easiest to separate from their money.

  7. 0

    Yes Barbara, any advertising that targets a particular demographic, (i would not dignify it with the word group) is appealing to that feeling based lower egotism, advertising by immoral individuals cares nothing about the damage it might do to families or, really, anything, it just wants to make a buck, and the devil take the hindmost.

  8. 0

    Interesting comments. Remember Grey Power? Both sides of government were trembling.

  9. 0

    Mick, I don’t agree that we don’t have the intelligence – we do, but have different priorities from when we were younger. Health is a big one. If you are racked with arthritic pain its difficult to summon up the energy to join a protest gathering for instance. And I would not go against my beliefs. Having said that, I agree we might achieve more if we banded together. We just need to do it intelligently!



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