FORWARD THINKING: Ita Buttrose believes change must come from the top.
FORWARD THINKING: Ita Buttrose believes change must come from the top.

Ita Buttrose keeps on speaking out for seniors

ITA Buttrose is loud and clear on this point.

"If you are lucky, you get to be old," she said.

"My brother was dead at 62, he would have loved to get old."

In 1988, this doyenne of media received an Order of Australia for service in the health care areas particularly in HIV/AIDS education. In 2013 she was named Australian Senior of the Year for work in dementia. The award also gave her a platform to talk about age discrimination.

Today her ambition is to make Australia an "Alzheimer-friendly" country, bust out ageing myths and see that mature-age people are treated fairly in the workplace.

But she believes change must come from the top.

"It's all about leadership, we need enlightened leaders, management, trailblazers to show the way" she said.

"Look at Bob Hawke, John Howard - we need more people like them to speak up."

The 74-year-old television personality and Alzheimers Association advocate said she saw examples of ageism every day, but remembered clearly the first examples.

"When I had ITA magazine, we would talk to potential advertisers and say our magazine was geared towards women over 40 and 50-years-old.

"At the mention of that age, their eyes would glaze over.

"It wasn't until the babyboomers reached 50, that people realised this age group was fit, active and contributing."

She said there was definitely age discrimination in the workplace and advised employers to take off their blinkers.

"In Sydney, I see signs asking for waiters, baristas, people in the service industry.

"If there's a shortfall in the service industry, why not take on older people.

"It's a myth that older people take more sick leave or have less commitment or can't adapt. Older people can learn and adapt as well as anyone."

Ita believes that the key to good health is through preventative measures.

"Regular exercise, eat properly, participate socially."

Her health advice also extends to fall prevention.

She warned of the prevalence of falls and noted a number of celebrities who had recently sustained injuries from falls.

"Look at Molly Meldrum and just recently Kerri-Anne's husband John Kennerley."

She said among other things, local councils needed to ensure adequate street lighting and solid paving.

"If brick paving becomes unstuck, it can be a hazard," she said.

She said her personal public speaking appearances held their own safety problems.

"To get to many of the stages, there are steps without railings," she said.

Ita said she was at the point where she would ask if railings were there - or if not to have them installed.

Again exercise, is an important preventative, particularly exercises that enhance your balance.

She mostly practises what she preaches:

"But I'm not perfect," she declares.

"I have an hour's walk every day and longer if I can, I work out with light weights a couple of times a week.

"But I have a terrible dilemma at the moment," she confessed.

It turned out to be a freezer full of delicious ice-cream samples, she was finding hard to resist.

"I love ice-cream," she laughed.

In her role as an advocate for Alzheimers, she notes that brain health is as important as body health.

"There is a misconception," she said.

"That dementia is a normal part of ageing, it's not, it often comes with ageing, but it is a chronic disease."

She said with dementia sufferers we needed to be kind and recognise the person inside.

Her own journey with the disease started with her father's diagnosis and learning to live with him and make him comfortable.

For years now, she has been speaking to groups about this devastating disease and encouraging government to better their health policies and nursing services.

Ita intends to keep fighting for change and she invites you to join the battle.

"Kick down that door,"

"And say that you demand respect, work and employment."


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