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Ageism – Combatting a national problem

Written by Shelly Fletcher, Head of Person-Centred Design and Research with integratedliving

We can all do our bit to educate ourselves, our children and others not to discriminate against age.

For the first time in Australia the total number of people receiving Home Care Packages – 215,743 – is more than those living in residential care – 180,750. In a survey for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, 80 per cent of Australians indicated a strong preference to stay living in their own home should they ever need support. 

People are living longer and healthier lives, yet it’s in a world where ageism is prevalent. A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that 90 per cent of Australians agree ageism exists, and 83 per cent believe it’s a problem.  

Ageism is defined as a prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. It causes significant damage to individuals, the economy and society. According to the World Health Organization, ageism is associated with earlier death (by 7.5 years), poorer physical and mental health, and slower recovery from disability in older age.  

Thankfully there are small things we can do to challenge ageism, starting with our children. Like questioning current behaviours.  

There is a growing trend for children to celebrate their first 100 days of primary school. Some schools reward their youngest learners with a box of smarties as they are now ‘100 days smarter’. Other schools invite children to dress-up as a 100-year-old. When doing so, the most popular choice is to wear pyjamas and slippers, with dishevelled hair, and needing a walking aid. Children – often encouraged by teachers and parents – hunch over, pretend not to hear, talk loudly and are often grumpy. 

Many teachers, parents and children seem comfortable with transforming their classrooms into a nursing home for people with high-care needs. But if all these children were to live to 100 years of age – would they all live in a nursing home? Given the statistics above, it’s unlikely. 

As the Head of Person-Centred Design and Research at integratedliving, I sent my daughter Maggie to her school in NSW with a different approach. Maggie was inspired by her own great-grandmother, Vivienne, who loved travelling. Maggie took on the persona of 100-year-old ‘Summer’, who enjoys going on vacations with her girlfriends and has an upcoming trip to Mykonos.​​​​​​​ 

Meanwhile, integratedliving Design Officer, Taleiha Hobson-Rozyn, sent her son Jai to his school in a different part of NSW as 100-year-old ‘Myles’, who likes to go for walks through the rainforest. Jai wore a checkered shirt with high socks, just like his great grandfather, Alan. 

Let’s stand for a world where all people of all ages are valued, respected and acknowledged. A world without ageism.

Shelly’s daughter Maggie dressed up like her travel-loving great-grandmother, Vivienne.
Taleiha’s son, Jai, dressed up like his grandfather, Alan, who loves bushwalking.

Have a look at the video Taleiha made:

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