Noni Hazlehurst has doubled down on her mission to change Australia’s mindset around older people, saying many of the stereotypes lumped onto over-60s are “utter nonsense”.
Speaking with 2GB’s Joe Hildebrand on Wednesday, the veteran actress said Australia’s young people are trained to ignore their elders.
“It’s judgement that we do, or that we’re all encouraged to do, based on what we see on the surface and it’s not helpful,” she said. “The invisibility of old people is really a thing because we’re surround by media images that suggest that being young and beautiful and attractive is the thing we should all aspire to and if you’re past it, well you’re past it, and you’re therefore not interesting.”
Noni was promoting the new SBS show What Does Australia Really Think About Old People. The eye-opening program delved into the institutional ageism that plagues much of the country and used a series of set ups to show the kinds of discrimination older Aussies are subjected to on a daily basis.
In one scene, the show sent a 59-year-old actress into a cafe to apply for a job as a barista. A young man behind the counter, also an actor, proceeded to dismiss her and berate her based on her age, loudly telling her in front of other customers that he didn’t want to waste his time interviewing her because it was unlikely she’d be able to stand on her feet all day behind the counter or operate the cash register.
Asked about the scene, Noni said: “I wasn’t shocked. I’ve seen this and I’ve experienced this to some degree too. It’s the assumption that you’re not an interesting consumer and that goes from retail opportunities to advertising. There is a misconception that older people don’t brand change, which is utter nonsense, that we’re set in our ways, which is also often nonsense. I was guilty of it when I was younger — you just assume that because someone is over a certain age that you haven’t got time for them at the moment.”
She added: “The reality is there are many kinds of old people just as there are many kinds of young people. You can’t say all young people are this or that anymore than you can about old people.”
Research from the Australian Commission into Human Rights found that 71 per cent of Australians feel that age discrimination in Australia is common, while 35 per cent of Australians aged 55-64 years and 43 per cent of Australians aged 65-plus years have experienced discrimination because of their age.
Some of the most common forms of discrimination included being overlooked for a job, being ignored by service people and being subjected to jokes about ageing.
“I think older people tend to get left on the side,” Noni told 2GB. “The worst example of that was highlighted in the Royal Commission into aged care where so may older people are struggling because it’s become an economic issue around how to look after them rather than a human thing you’re trying to do to look after people.
“We’re not an economy, we’re a society and we should be treating people better.”
Speaking about her own experience with ageism in her industry, Noni previously told Starts at 60 she embraces roles that highlight the issues older Australians are facing because they reflect her own life.
“Well, I can’t really play anyone else other than what I am,” she says. “I’ve never had work done so you know I bear every wrinkle with pride.”
You can watch What Does Australia Really Think About Old People here.