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I'm not ageist, but...

10th December 2019

As published in Aged Care Online, 10 December 2019.

In support of International Human Rights Day, Benetas aged care provider CEO Sandra Hills OAM today called for Australians to delve into their preconceptions of older generations and challenge common stereotypes that can fuel ageism in society.

With the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety unveiling countless cases of neglect and mistreatment towards the elderly, Ms Hills said the case for a major social change campaign to shift common perceptions of older people has never been so strong.

“The Royal Commission is an important vehicle for change in how we care for older Australians and we applaud the introduction of the new Charter of Aged Care Rights in June this year to ensure that the rights of older people are at the front and centre of everything we do”, said Ms Hills.

“However in my mind, when it comes to safeguarding rights and wellbeing of older generations, this policy doesn’t go far enough.”

Ms Hills commented that most people don’t realise that older men are more likely to die by suicide than any other age group, and that older women are now one of the fastest growing groups at risk of homelessness.

“In fact, rates of depression among older people remain disproportionately high and are sadly often accepted as a ‘normal’ part of ageing.

“If we’re really going to commit to tackling discrimination in Australia, we’re going to have to start valuing older people on an individual level and valuing their contributions to our community.”

Ms Hills went on to say that we need a strong national campaign to show the real face of older members of the community.

“The Department of Health’s leading report, A Matter of Care, that’s now guiding aged care’s workforce strategy, labelled the need to transform current community attitudes towards ageing as its first priority.

“It’s time that we work to shed existing perceptions and share the very real experiences of older people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, from various gender identities and sexual orientations. All of whom come with their own individual passions and expressions of service,” she said.

“We are now on the brink of incredible systematic change in how we care for older Australians, and with that comes an important opportunity, and in fact a responsibility, to tackle the ageism that older generations face.

“How we treat our elderly, sick and most vulnerable, falls to the heart of how we measure as a society.

“This International Human Rights Day, let’s embrace the diverse and incredible stories of older Australians and value them not only in our healthcare and aged care systems, but indeed in our everyday lives.”