Is this discrimination of over 60s? 32



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We all know that driver and pedestrian safety is important in any populated area. And we all know that when new roads are being planned, the council and Government want us to be safe by putting in pedestrian crossings, bike paths and so on. But why then do we have signs that reinforce tired stigmas on particular groups of people? I am talking of course about elderly crossing signs. You’ve seen them – they are the signs showing a person hunched over holding a cane or walking frame.

So, what purpose do these signs serve? Apart from the obvious – to slow down – what other information do these signs truly provide? If a car were approaching a suburban area, common sense would be that the driver takes care and reduces his/her speed. These signs provide no more information than those ‘baby on board’ stickers, which are optimistically slapped onto cars by parents in the hope that other drivers will take greater care around their vehicle. You can hope that a driver will consider the age of the passenger however there is no guarantee that this will factor into anyone’s driving performance.

There are others who share my opinion on this topic. The UK’s TSAR for older workers, Dr. Ros Altmann, stated in an interview last week that she wants to remove elderly crossing signs from the streets. Speaking with The Sunday Times, she highlighted how a country with an ageing population would be unwise to push the idea that the elderly are naturally weak, or disabled. By doing so, employers may be at greater risk of being discouraged of hiring individuals over 50.

As Australia has an equally ageing population, our country could be faced with a similarly unemployed generation if the current stereotype of elderly people is continually perpetuated. What then would happen if employers around Australia refuse to hire the elderly due to this dated idea of frailty that keeps popping up on our streets? There is enough discrimination for over 60s in the workplace as it is.

It seems then that we may have to rethink the way in which we warn drivers to slow down or perhaps warn pedestrians whether walking is safe or not. The recent implementations of the ‘countdown’ footpaths have been successful and don’t discriminate whether you’re young or old…you just go! You may have seen them around your suburb, where they show an actual countdown to both cars and pedestrians of how much time they have to get to the other side.

While these are obviously not a full proof way to ensure road safety, technological advances in preventative measures may be the key that enables us as a society, and not signs that blatantly spread worn-out ideas. Over 60s are more active than ever and don’t need to be treated as if they are different or impaired – we’re living into our 90s and beyond and have plenty more life in us! Crossing the road is the least of our problems. We clearly need to break down stereotypes around the little old lady crossing the street so we can begin to be treated fairly by society.

What do you think? Are elderly pedestrian crossings discriminatory? Or are they needed? Share your thoughts below.


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  1. Timed count down crossings are a good idea but must be suitable for the area. At Anaheim USA they didn’t have enough time to cross a six lane highway. Although reasonably fit we just about had to run across or stop half way they were just too quick.

    1 REPLY
    • hahhaha…I can just see all the oldies running on the spot oiling themselves up for the race across the 6 lanes…sorry it probably isn’t funny, but it is giving me a laugh! I was teaching a daughter of 16 to drive in NZ, and as we were driving up a lovely big long street, an elderly man was about to cross the road a fair distance up from us…I told her to slow down a bit, just so he could get over before she got there…at least to the middle…well he stood there for a short time and moved his legs and arms, which looked like he was oiling up all his joints, stood tall, then walked across…she had to actually stop the car and wait for him anyway. It has been a memory that causes a little laugh whenever I see someone like him wanting to cross the road…my turn will come I am sure!!!

  2. I don’t believe they are discriminatory.
    They let people know to take a little extra care when driving in the area.
    Speaking for myself, I know I can no longer sprint out of the way of a car which is moving a bit faster than I thought it was. My eyesight isn’t as good nor my agility.
    We warn people to take care when driving around schools and hospitals and medical centres. We warn people when driving in areas where there is a lot of wildlife or unfenced properties where cattle and sheep roam. So what is the problem with letting people know to take care when driving in areas where elderly people live. Eg: nursing hones, retirement villages.
    We want consideration and respect for our age, and I believe this is helping us; not hindering us.

    4 REPLY
    • Agree with you Ruth…we don’t have them here that I have seen, but maybe they are around the nursing homes and retirement areas that I haven’t been driving through. If it is a warning in those areas, why not? Good point.

    • Well said Ruth. I found the article to be just another case of people looking to be offended when no offence was intended at all.

    • I agree with you Ruth. On days like today, I would have a problem scooting across a busy road. The sciatica has been giving me curry. We have had school crossings for years, along with animal crossings (and who told them where to cross the road? ).
      Even though some senior citizens are still quite sprightly, it is not a given. In my town, there are many disabled people of all ages and I believe that more could be done to make their movement around the streets safer.

  3. I have only seen these signs in the vicinity of nursing homes and retirement villages and I am always that little bit more careful when driving near them. The signs are not directed at the over 60s, they are for the frail and less agile and as such I think are great. And while I am in the age group you mention, I’m healthy and fit, and I never consider that they are pointed at me. But if or when they are I will be grateful for them.

    1 REPLY
  4. As someone who uses a walking stick, I appreciate these signs. And the countdown light crossings. I can estimate if i should wait for the next green light.

  5. I actually don’t see anything wrong with the depiction of extra care needed. When do we see commonsense prevail with the reckless, on the phone, speeding etc.. if such a sign makes one driver NOTICE more than what she/he would’ve; then more the merrier.

  6. NOT discriminatory in any way. They simply alert drivers that a pedestrian who may be crossing ahead MAY not be (not “is not”) able to move as quickly as a 20 year old.
    IMHO this one is just another for the PeeCee basket.

  7. What about Workers Comp cutting out at the old retirement age, if that’s not blatant discrimination based on age what is?
    We are encouraged to keep working but just dont get injured

  8. 1. It stands to reason that older people can be less likely to be aware of oncoming traffic, and not be nimble enough to avoid being hit!
    2. Some pedestrians are hard of hearing and again may not be aware of approaching vehicles. Some also have the tendency to suddenly make up their minds to cross the road, and do so without checking first.
    3. Who cares if the sign IS a bit discriminatory, if its helping to save a few lives. I hear a bit of ‘political correctness’ breaking through the surface here!

    1 REPLY
    • Certainly so, Brian. I reckon it may be why the writer remained anonymous.

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