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New research finds ageism rife in Australia, but few know how to respond


Nearly half of all Australians over-50 experienced ageism in the past year, but only one in five of them took any action in response, according to new research launched to mark the first Ageism Awareness Day on 7 October 2022.

Australia’s campaign to end ageism, EveryAGE Counts, commissioned a nationwide poll by The RedBridge Group, to help understand the gap between the widespread prevalence and our collective willingness to combat it. The findings of the research include:

  • 45 per cent of Australians over 50 say they have experienced ageism in the past year, and 52 per cent of all Australians say they have witnessed ageism in the past year
  • 82 per cent of older Australians who experienced ageism say they did not take any action in response. Of these:
    • 27 per cent said it was because it was hard to prove
    • 24 per cent said it was because they didn’t know how to respond
    • 22 per cent said was because they were not sure if it was really ageism
    • 9 per cent said they “didn’t know what my options were”

EveryAGE Counts is today looking to raise awareness that although knowing how to respond to ageism can be tricky, there is a range of constructive actions people can take, including setting up affinity groups at work, escalating complaints strategically, and understanding how to approach conversations that make a difference.

“Ageism is pervasive, but often hidden. The only way we can end it is to bring it out of the shadows,” said EveryAGE Counts Campaign Director Marlene Krasovitsky.

“Often older Australians feel powerless when we encounter ageism. However, if we know what it looks like and name it, we can take constructive actions in response. In this way each of us can help build an Australia without ageism.

“People often don’t know how to approach difficult conversations about ageism, but we know there are approaches that work better than others. For example, it’s tempting to argue that ‘one day you’ll be in my shoes,’ but the latest research shows people find it hard to conceptualise their future selves, and that it may actually be more persuasive to simply explain the impact the ageism had on you personally.

“Another example is ageism in the workplace – people may suspect they’re missing out on opportunities to learn new tech or skills because of ageism, but it can be difficult to prove. Setting up an affinity group of older colleagues can be an effective way to compare experiences and identify patterns You may also take a look at your organisation’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy and if age is not included as a ground of diversity, suggest it is.”

Ageism Awareness Day ambassador Monica Trapaga is well known to Australians through her decades of work on stage and screen, including on the ABC’s Play School. She said she was inspired to join the campaign to help raise awareness of this form of discrimination.

“I’ve encountered all kinds of ageist discrimination during my time in television, and I know my experiences are far from unique,” Trapaga said.

“It’s something I believe we really need to start taking more seriously in Australia. Yes, we’re ageing as a nation, but that’s only a negative if we continue to discriminate against older people and make unfair assumptions about who they are and what they can and can’t do.

“Like all forms of discrimination, the place to start is by spreading awareness. So much ageism happens unconsciously, and it’s allowed to keep happening because we don’t feel sufficiently informed or empowered to push back. Ageism Awareness Day is about ending that and I couldn’t be prouder to play this role.”

EveryAGE Counts co-chair and former federal Minister Robert Tickner said Ageism Awareness Day was an important initiative and it was very pleasing to see so many individuals and organisations around the country having conversations about ageism and its impacts.

“The proportion of the Australian population over 65 has doubled from 8 per cent to 15 per cent over the past 50 years. We can’t keep discriminating against a fifth of our population. We need to update our attitudes, structures, and practices.

“Of course, the responsibility to act lies not just with those who experience ageism, but with everyone else. Discrimination and prejudice survive when we turn a blind eye or allow it to go unchallenged.”

Content from EveryAge Counts media releaseNote: Content has been edited for style and length.


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