THE EveryAGE Counts project is on track to drive a conversation across the generations about changing the norms and ultimately the community attitudes around ageing.
The Benevolent Society team behind the project are determined to take on Australia's ageism attitudes in all sectors. They want to move the current conversation away from a focus on aged care and the pension, and the burden of the cost of care. Instead EveryAGE Counts will tackle inclusiveness, participation, equity and a whole range other issues that they expect will have a positive impact on Australia's older people now and on those that will become part of the older community into the future.
Last year's research project, which was the first activity of EveryAGE Counts, delved into ageism and ageist stereotypes in Australia. The outcomes are helping to drive the next stage of campaign which will be launched in October.
Turning around the community's perception of ageing and the value of ageing Australians across all sectors are the big goals for the campaign. That's going to take changes in many ways, across the generations and within the older Australian community who generally don't look positively on ageing.
The society's Older Australians campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky said seniors tend to couple ageing with decline and death. "It tends not to be a time of life we look forward to," Ms Krasovitsky said.
If seniors can uncouple that attitude, younger generations can be encouraged to also uncouple their attitudes.
"I think we need to do something to change, Ms Krasovitsky added. "There are a lot of older people who are living happy, fulfilled lives and I think we change the narrative around getting older and start to present the reality rather than the stereotypes to people," she added.
The key issues that the campaign will take on were highlighted by the researchers who found ageism comes in different forms. "There are certainly discriminatory practices towards older people. Recruitment and work came up most often," Ms Krasovitsky said.
"There are also institutional practices and policies that have an impact on older Australians. For instance, if you take the obvious example of the age pension which is predicated on the assumption that most older people own their own home. In fact, that is not the case.
"We know that ageism has negative impacts. It can be devastating for an individual to feel they are no longer valued, no longer competitive in the labour market or if they feel marginalised. We also know it has negative impacts at a broader societal level where people are isolated, marginalised, not benefitting from the inter-generational. But also from economic level, we are locking older workers out of the workforce and this can have devastating impacts given we are an ageing demographic."
A collation of key decision makers drawn from more than 20 organisations have now been corralled to work on the national campaign. With the understanding that shifting attitudes across generations may take 10 or more years, Ms Krasovitsky expects it will run for an extended period.
The group has started to build its communications and marketing materials, and develop a grass-roots movement to get behind the campaign. "We want to build our voice and start to make our asks of government, of our local MPs, of our local communities, to start thinking and behaving differently around older people," Ms Krasovitsky said.
The EveryAGE Counts project team will also be pushing the Federal Government for a minister for older Australians and a national agenda. They will also focus on workforce participation and on the way in which the media represent older Australians.
"We want to see something other than the very frail, elderly woman pushing her Zimmer frame at a nursing home versus the exceptional 95-year-old grandmother who is jumping out of aeroplanes," Ms Krasovitsky said. "Both of those are important images, but we want to see the range of images between those two extremes, and represent the reality and diversity of older people's lives."