Ageism is a highly accepted form of prejudice in Australia and alarmingly, on a global scale, 1 in 2 people are ageist. That’s half of the world’s population that hold negative attitudes about ageing and older people.  

“Good for her age”, “out of touch”, “young at heart”, do you notice ageist attitudes when they appear in everyday interactions? 7 October 2022 marks Australia’s second annual Ageism Awareness Day, an initiative of the EveryAGE Counts advocacy campaign spearheaded by The Benevolent Society. The campaign vision is “A society where every person is valued, connected and respected regardless of age”. 

This is an important agenda at The Benevolent Society. In 2017, we released a report on the drivers of ageism which found that age discrimination can take three different forms – attitudes and beliefs, behavioural discrimination and formalised policy and practises. We draw from this research in our fight against ageist stereotypes, practises, and discrimination to achieve a just society where all Australians can live – and age – well.  

If one thing doesn’t “age well”, it’s ageist stereotypes! 

One key finding that emerged from the 2021 Human Rights Report was that Australians see older people as “nice (if frail) onlookers to life”. Not an empowering role to be in, is it?  

Viewing older people as outside of cultural and social activity only contributes to the isolation, powerlessness and discrimination experienced by older generations. According to a WHO survey, these effects on wellbeing even shorten lives. It also has a cross-generational impact – putting undue time pressure on the life-trajectory of younger generations (for example, the age one “should” buy a house or get married) and increasing global age-related anxiety. 

Marking the day

Online Launch Event 

AT 10am this morning, EveryAGE Counts welcomed Ita Buttrose AC, OBE as the special guest for the Ageism Awareness Day online panel discussion. Ita is an exceptional Australian: a legendary media trailblazer, businesswoman, best-selling author, committed community and welfare contributor and former Australian of the Year. She was joined by Robert Tickner and Colin Maddocks, and Dr Marlene Krasovitsky who facilitated this powerful and incisive discussion. Ita delved into why we need to get rid of age limits on meaningfully contributing to society, especially in the workforce.

"I think we're so surrounded by attitudes about older people that we tend to hide the fact that we're older. At 80, I'm very proud to still be working. People often ask me if I'm going to retire but I find the question offensive. Why should I retire? I like working. So we have to support people who fear that in the workforce, being 50+ is something that they can't talk about," she explains. 

Ita Butrose
A photo of a smiling Ita Buttrose

The discussion moved outside the working environment to consider ways in which ageism infiltrates all sectors of society, including medical settings, education, entertainment, public discourse and advertising. However, Ita is confident that our community already has what it takes to move the needle in the right direction.

"50% of the population of Australia is now over 65, so we're quite a powerful cohort of people. And if we all used our collective voice more effectively, we could all bring about change," she says.

EveryAGE Counts has developed activities and resources to support the growing social movement to shift attitudes and give us tools to take action to end ageism. A game adored by everyone on the age spectrum –  they have turned classic snakes and ladders into a fun way to develop ageism awareness with the whole family. Get your free download here.  

Snakes and Ladders Game

snakes and ladders board game
Snakes and Ladders of Ageism Board Game 

Maggie Beer Recipes, Quizzes and more! 

Maggie Beer is a beloved Australian chef who has been instrumental in campaigning for better aged care services and tackling age discrimination. She says, “I think we have a real problem with ageism and I want to show age has nothing to do with it. I’m 77 and I love my life. I’ve got as much energy as anyone else and that comes from doing what I love and being a positive person. 

Find her Signature Crispy Polenta Bites recipe given to EveryAGE Counts to mark the day, here. 

We all have unconscious biases. These are culturally determined ideas that we don’t choose, and if we want to unlearn them the first step is to recognise them. Want to discover some of your age biases? Take this two minute “Am I Ageist?” quiz. 

Finally, EveryAGECounts has prepared a helpful guide on “practical tips to end ageism”. These will give you ideas on how to respond to ageism when you see it in a variety of situations and contexts, like in the workplace, retail environments, healthcare settings, and in your interpersonal relationships. Click here to learn how to speak up against ageism. 

At the end of the day, to age is a gift, not a given. So instead of being coy about our age, lets aim to be age proud in whatever ways we are comfortable. Announce your next birthday – each year is a cause for celebration! 

"For those of us getting older, we need to wear our age with pride," Ita says.