The recent release of the NSW Government’s quinquennial Intergenerational Report triggered a wave of discussion in the community and media about the impacts of an ageing population.
Understandably, much of the debate focused on how Government will deliver and fund the services and infrastructure needed to support an older community.
However, what didn’t garner much attention was the as necessary shift in the community’s attitudes towards ageing. Sadly, at present, all too often older people are unfairly and discriminatorily pigeon-holed or stereotyped because of their age.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work Report highlighted just how widespread discrimination against older people in employment is.
The report found older people face longer periods of unemployment, and the majority of the complaints made to the Commission in 2014-15 by people aged over 45 were about employment.
Furthermore, the Commission’s 2015 National prevalence survey of age discrimination found close to a third of people aged over 50 had experienced age discrimination at work.
More than ever, we need to change the way we look at and think about ageing. Getting older doesn’t mean life ends. Getting older just means life changes. Indeed, ageing isn’t homogenous, everyone’s experience is different.
Importantly, people are more than a number. Just as we wouldn’t judge someone solely on the basis of their gender or race, we shouldn’t judge people on the basis of how many years they have been on this earth for.
As a community, we need to stop thinking in terms of age, and start thinking in terms of life experience.
The NSW Government is working to better address ageism and tackle ingrained prejudices within our community.
As part of the renewal of the whole-of-government, whole-of-community NSW Ageing Strategy, I have been travelling to communities across NSW to speak with older people about their experiences, including their experiences of ageism.
People have told me they want to live in a community that includes, respects and recognises them.
The renewed strategy will be focused on ensuring older people can experience all the benefits of living longer, and are able to fully participate in all aspects of life. We want to make sure our communities prevent isolation and keep people safe as they age, as well as provide opportunities to stay connected and make a contribution.
The NSW Government is determined to ensure people are not just living longer than ever before, but living better than ever before. We will continue to work with our partners in the non-government sector and in the community make our community more inclusive.