Thursday 28 September 2023

Media Release

The National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) is urging Australians to be more aware of how they may unknowingly demonstrate ageism, ahead of the International Day of Older Persons this Sunday, 1 October.

“We unfortunately see ageist attitudes across all aspects of our society, and it's often so deeply ingrained we don't necessarily recognise it,” NARI Executive Director, Professor Briony Dow, said.

“Ageism involves the devaluation of older people, infantilisation, exclusion, and reduction in power. It affects people of all ages, and is considered to be a problem by more than 80 per cent of Australians.”

“So much can be gained from the insights and experience of older people, yet, so often, their views and perspectives are devalued – and in so doing, they are too.”

Chair of the Melbourne Ageing Research Collaboration (MARC) Community Advisory Group, Rhonda Day, says ageism underlies all the major issues affecting older people.

“We believe policy across a wide range of areas has not included the views of older people. This is why we’ve seen aged care underfunded for decades – because an ageist society places less value on older people.”

“All too often, we see thoughtless ageist comments and jokes which undermine confidence and dignity, and diminish the economic and social contributions made by older people to society,” Ms Day said.

Professor Dow said ageism can include elder abuse, which includes financial, physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse and neglect.

“Elder abuse damages the lives of older people, decreases quality of life, and increases mortality risk by 40 per cent. It is linked with depression, anxiety, fear and suicide and common geriatric syndromes such as falls and incontinence,” Professor Dow said.

A national prevalence study estimated elder abuse in the community at 14.8 per cent – however, this is an underestimation as elder abuse often goes underreported and unrecognised. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety estimated almost 40 per cent of Australians in residential care settings were experiencing elder abuse – this only included people who reported neglect, emotional and psychological abuse, and physical abuse.

“The most common form of elder abuse is psychological, and it is most likely to be perpetrated by adult children, friends, and partners or spouses,” Professor Dow said.

To reduce the high rate of elder abuse in Australia, NARI is calling for a whole of government approach; a focus on elder abuse in residential care and on perpetrators, including better understanding of the risk factors and early interventions; and investment in intergenerational approaches.

“Our ageing population is going to be one of the most significant transformations this century. So, we need to seriously consider how we address ageism to ensure we are best able to support communities to age well,” Professor Dow said.

Saturday 7 October also marks Ageism Awareness Day.

Media contact: Evelyn Ek — 0412 887 853