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Priority action area 3: Valuing senior Victorians

Increasing the visibility of older people as valued and contributing Victorian citizens

Tackling ageism and discrimination

No matter their age, background or gender, most people want to be part of our whole community. They want to be valued for their contribution and treated with respect. To age well requires our community to have a positive view of older people. It means recognising their ability to contribute to society and the economy. But many older people talk about their experience of ‘becoming invisible’ as they age. They are concerned their needs are often not acknowledged within the wider community.

Being treated differently because of your age can lead to feeling vulnerable and can erode self-esteem. While ageism is a driver of elder abuse, women are more likely than men to be victims through lifelong patterns of family violence. Women’s longer life expectancy means many more women live alone in later life. The number of homeless older women is increasing due to:

  • family violence
  • insecure housing and income
  • lack of superannuation.

In 2020, Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kaye Paterson AO reported ageism across all ages as the most accepted form of prejudice in Australia. The average duration of mature age unemployment is 75 weeks. This compares with 48 weeks across all age groups. Older age is the main reason why employers reject job applications. A study by the University of New South Wales found increases in older-age participation in work are slowing. This is despite older Australians being healthier, more educated and more employable.

Older LGBTIQ+ people are likely to have experienced a history of stigma, isolation and criminalisation during most of their lifetime. This can have consequences for how private and discreet some are about their sexuality. For example, there is a trend of returning to live in ‘the closet’ once entering aged care due to a fear of discrimination and misunderstanding.

Intergenerational programs have the potential to reduce stigma associated with ageing. They can reduce discrimination and build social capital by strengthening intergenerational ties and promoting mutual support and understanding. Intergenerational programs can reduce or prevent social isolation. They can nurture a sense of taking part and of meaningful engagement. Also, by enabling older adults to mentor or tutor children and youth, intergenerational programs have the potential to improve life outcomes for younger people.

Providing support to employers to recruit and keep on older workers can address age discrimination in the workplace.

Reviewed 27 June 2022

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