“Ageism involves the devaluation of older people, infantilisation, exclusion, and reduction in power. 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.
Over 80% of Australians acknowledge ageism as an issue. NARI highlights that policies across many areas overlook seniors’ perspectives and underlying problems like the chronic underfunding of aged care over decades.
“An ageist society places less value on older people. This is why we’ve seen aged care underfunded for so long,” said Rhonda Day, Chair of NARI’s Community Advisory Group.
Thoughtless ageist comments and jokes undermine dignity and erase seniors’ substantial economic and social contributions. Elder abuse, encompassing neglect and financial, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, represents an extreme manifestation of ageism.
“Elder abuse damages the lives of older people, decreases quality of life, and increases mortality risk by 40 per cent,” Professor Dow said. “It is linked with depression, anxiety, fear and suicide and common geriatric syndromes such as falls and incontinence.”
A national prevalence study estimated a 14.8% elder abuse rate in the community. The Aged Care Royal Commission revealed nearly 40% of aged care residents suffered abuse, including neglect, emotional/psychological and physical abuse. Yet elder abuse frequently goes unreported and unrecognised.
To curb Australia’s high elder abuse rates, NARI advocates for a whole-of-government approach, evaluating risk factors and interventions for perpetrators and investing 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.