In a new survey conducted by Australian Seniors of more than 5,000 Australians aged over 50, 20.7% said they had experienced age discrimination in the workplace – which, worryingly, has more than doubled from 9.6% in 2016.
Almost all participants (93.2%) also shared they felt ‘undervalued’ and almost 100% of the sample (97.7%) said the older they become, the harder it is to secure employment.
Out of the respondents, almost 70% claimed they knew or believed they were not considered for a job because of their age – a percentage that has increased more than 20% since results last obtained in 2016.
“They assumed I was ready to retire”
For 64-year-old registered nurse Heather Garreffa, retirement was the furthest thing from her mind, when she shockingly realised her employer was not intending to renew her work contract.
Having worked for the public hospital system in Adelaide for more than 20 years, Garreffa told Yahoo! Finance, “Initially, the research department was told all contracts were going to end. I thought this happens when funding ceases.”
However, Garreffa discovered that she was the only employee who wasn’t staying on.
The nurse believes she was let go due to her age, telling Yahoo! Finance, “At 64, I was close to retirement age, and they assumed that I was ready to retire.”
Age is not the problem: Ageism is
Unfortunately, ageism is the most accepted form of prejudice in our country, with the Australian Human Rights Commission finding that 90% of Australians agree ageism exists in Australia.
Dr Kay Patterson’s data in her report What’s age got to do with it? A snapshot of ageism across the Australian lifespan, noted that 63% of Australians have been subjected to ageism in the past five years.
She added, “I call on everyone to think about ageism and how it affects you and those close to you … Age is not the problem. Ageism is.”
Looking for work at 64
After registered nurse Garreffa was forced to leave her job at the hospital in Adelaide, she began job hunting at the age of 64, applying for dozens of jobs, but not being approached for any interviews.
“Even within the nursing industry and the current demand for staff in areas of infection control and vaccination, nobody wanted a bar of me,” Garreffa told Yahoo! Finance.
But soon luck was on Garreffa’s side, and an encounter with a carer that was helping a neighbour turned her ageism misfortunes around.
“The carer … asked me if I’d seen my neighbour. She was deeply concerned for my neighbour, who needed care.”
Now 68 years old, Garreffa shared, “This story still surprises me. My colleagues treat me with dignity and respect and they want to hear my opinions about things.”
She added, “I don’t feel old, and I love what I do. It’s wonderful to feel like I’ve made a difference and perhaps made someone more comfortable than they were before my visit.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing ageism, contact the Australian Human Rights Commission, Fair Work Ombudsman or Equal Opportunity Commission in your state.