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We Need to Talk About Ageism

Published 24/03/2021

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Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action reflects on the impact of ageism in our society as the UN launches the Global Report on Ageism

 

Ageism refers to how we think (stereotypes), feel (prejudice) and act (discrimination) towards others or ourselves according to age.

Every second person in the world is believed to hold ageist attitudes. Ageism affects people of all ages.

Ageism affects us throughout life and exists in our institutions, our relationships and ourselves. Ageism intersects with and exacerbates other forms of disadvantage including those related to sex, race, and disability.

Ageism leads to poorer health, social isolation, earlier deaths and, according to the report, costs economies billions.

In Ireland we have seen how the COVID-19 response measures revealed just how prevalent ageism is in our institutions and in our narratives. We’ve seen how older and younger people were stereotyped in public discourse and on social media. Older people have been consistently referred to as ‘vulnerable’ throughout the pandemic. Older age is undoubtedly a medical vulnerability when it comes to COVID-19, and this vulnerability is nuanced, primarily for the older older-aged and people with underlying health risks. However, the response measures and the language used in public health advice failed to recognise the diversity of situation and experience of all older people, the overwhelming majority of whom are neither frail nor vulnerable.

The Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Older Persons describes how, for human rights purposes, age is not merely a numerical designation, but a social construct based on custom, practice, and the perception of the role a person plays in his or her community. It is clear, given the fact that every second person in the world holds ageist attitudes, that the conversation about ageism needs to start in our communities and our workplaces.

The report notes that policies and laws that address ageism, educational activities that enhance empathy and dispel misconceptions, and intergenerational activities that reduce prejudice all help decrease ageism. 

The Global Report on Ageism is a rallying call to all of us that ageism can be combatted. The report calls for swift action to implement effective anti-ageism strategies;

  • Policy and law can address discrimination and inequality based on age and

protect the human rights of everyone, everywhere

  • Educational activities can transmit knowledge and skills and enhance

empathy

  • Intergenerational activities can contribute to the mutual understanding

and cooperation of different generations.

Age Action’s newly launched BIG Corporate Challenge is one way we are facilitating conversations on ageism through fostering greater understanding of intergenerational relationships.

Age Action BIG Corporate Challenge 2021

The Age Action BIG Corporate Challenge (where BIG stands for Be Inter-Generational) is a six-month team-building programme that strengthens the workforce while raising funds for our work. The programme for employers contributes to employee engagement, learning & development, community support, and diversity and inclusion. Corporate participants form teams that devise fundraising ideas that foster intergenerational understanding and co-operation.

Participating organisations receive educational support from Age Action through three webinar-style touchpoints: Ageing in Ireland, Age Action Programmes & Advocacy, and Exploring Perceptions of Age in the Workplace.

In 2021, participating organisations include the National Shared Services Office, VMware, Fidelity Investments, Sky Ireland, and Gas Networks Ireland. Their participating teams are working on dynamic fundraisers such as publication of intergenerational cookbooks, pen-pal programmes with older people in their communities, tree-planting initiatives for the benefit of current and future generations, and intergenerational family exercise challenges to promote healthy ageing.

We applaud the 5 organisations who have taken up the Age Action BIG Corporate Challenge 2021 to help us promote greater dialogue on ageism.

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Age Action calls on the Government to use Budget 2022 to counter the growing inequality experienced by older people

(13 September 2021) Age Action today launched its submission to Government in advance of Budget 2022, alongside the findings of a survey of older people’s views on the budget.

93.7% of respondents to Age Action’s Pre-Budget 2022 survey said that there should be in increase in the State Pension. 53.7% of older persons said they found it difficult to access services or activities that were only available online, and 54.3% had medical appointments for non-COVID issues cancelled or postponed.