Have You Been on the Receiving End of Ageism?

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Have you ever:

• Suspected that you missed out on a promotion because you are older than other candidates?

• Received unequal treatment by a service provider because you are older than other clientele?

• Felt overlooked because you are no longer considered of use by society?

If so, you could well have been at the receiving end of ageism, which is defined as discrimination against an individual strictly on the basis of their age.

The Australian Human Rights Commission undertook research on ageism in Australia in 2020 and 2021 and the results are outlined in its What’s Age Go To Do With It? report. The report found that 90 per cent of Australians agree ageism exists and 83 per cent agreed it’s a problem. However, 65 per cent said it affects people of all ages, not just seniors.

For example, research participants said that:

• Young people (18 to 39 years) are attractive and still finding their way. Nonetheless, people in this age bracket said they experience ageism in the form of being condescended to or ignored, particularly at work.

• Middle-aged people (40 to 61 years) are in the prime of their lives. However, this group said they were most likely to experience being turned down for a job due to their age.

• Older people (62 years and over) are nice, if frail, onlookers to life. However, some seniors experience ageism in the form of being ‘helped’ without being asked.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said that while the researchers found common stereotypes about different age groups during the research, “I was struck by the warmth expressed by participants towards members of age cohorts other than their own – and a real understanding of the life issues faced by those of other age groups”.

The report uncovered what it means to be a certain age is also changing. Increased longevity, changing social mores, cultural factors, and economic shifts mean people are realising key milestones at later ages, such as completing an educational qualification, buying a home or having children.

Dr Patterson said it is incumbent on each of us to discuss these issues and do our bit to bring ageism into mainstream conversations in our workplaces, living rooms, and with our friends. “Every Australian must do what they can to challenge ageist attitudes in themselves and others, so together, we can reduce ageism for Australians of all ages. Age is not the problem. Ageism is,” Dr Patterson said.

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