Tomorrow is the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons and peak bodies have called for the community to use the awareness day to reflect and consider how they can help abolish ageism.
Beverly Baker, President of the National Older Women’s Network and member of the National Older Persons Reference Group said tomorrow should be a day to reflect on the value that older people add to our society.
“[Older people] are the custodians of history that was never written down,” she said.
“Unfortunately, in an ageist society, the older you get the less value you seem to have.
“That is such a waste of human resources, of human capacity and warmth.”
Ian Henschke, National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate, agreed with Ms Baker’s sentiment and said older people feel ageism being directed at them when they interact with others, feeling a sense of invisibility and as if they were ignored.
“The Aged Care Royal Commission highlighted this problem and said a lot of issues that came about [are] as a result of what was happening in aged care came from a general lack of respect for older Australians,” explained Mr Henschke.
“Ageing shouldn’t be seen as a negative – one of the best things about life is that each day you get a bit older and that means you’re still alive and are gaining more life experience.
“That life experience is invaluable and… we need to bring the generations together to let them talk to each other about their experiences.”
Ms Baker added experiencing ageism of any kind, even categorising age groups by being a ‘Gen X’ or ‘Baby Boomer’ creates a sense of separation that should not exist.
“[It’s] destructive because it then allows people to easily blame another group for things going on in their lives,” she explained.
Calling to end the “war on older people”, Ms Baker said it is important to come to terms with the reality that most people will experience ageing and become an older person.
“It is vital to stop this war on older people, stop viewing them as a burden and complaining how much they’re costing us,” she said.
“Nobody would sacrifice the life of a toddler and no one should be willing to sacrifice the life of an older person.”
To celebrate the day, peak body organisation Council on the Ageing (COTA) South Australia hosted an event in Adelaide today, where older South Australians heard from guest speakers discussing their personal experiences of ageing and sparked a conversation about what it means to age in 2022.
Guests included veteran media personality, Keith Conlon OAM; celebrity cook and food manufacturer, Maggie Beer AO; and Chair of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Polly Sumner Dodd.
COTA SA also utilised the event to engage with audience members and hear firsthand about the challenges, stereotypes and misconceptions about ageing in today’s society.
COTA SA Deputy President, Anne Burgess AM said the organisation is on a mission to re-write the ageing rulebook and redesign the stereotypical life course.
“Ageism is pervasive, pernicious but often unwitting and unconscious,” she said.
“Despite living longer and healthier lives, we are stuck with the stereotypes of older age that don’t fit with our current reality.
“We need to grasp the opportunities of our longevity and throw out the rules of ageing that are getting in our way!”
This year’s International Day of Older Persons theme is ‘Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World’, acknowledging the strength of older people over a difficult couple of years.