CHANGING attitudes to ageing has to happen; that's a given. But, how it happens and when is the challenge being taken up by the social campaign, EveryAGE Counts.

The anti-ageism campaign, which is the brainchild of the Benevolent Society, but driven by a powerful and diverse coalition of organisations and individuals, has officially started work this week.

A new website, video messaging for social media and a pledge document are the start.

I stand for a world without ageism where all people of all ages are valued and respected and their contributions are acknowledged. I commit to speak out and take action to ensure older people can participate on equal terms with others in all aspects of life.

EveryAGE Counts will be a long-term campaign; 10 or 15 more years from now it's supporters hope it's real value is seen and felt. In the short-term though there is a lot of work to be done to change the entrenched overt and covert attitudes of all ages to ageing Australians.

"We know that unless we can get to the heart of these attitudes and beliefs to expose and redress them for their unfair and outdated assumptions, we will have little success in dismantling the barriers and assuring that all Australians, right across life from birth, right through to very old age, can have the opportunity to live their very best of life," Benevolent Society CEO Jo Toohey said

Ageism is stereotyping, discrimination and mistreatment based solely on age.

Adapting to the changing world is part of the challenge. More of us are not only living longer lives, we are also living healthier ones. We want to stay engaged with and involved in the world around us. By 2055 the number of us aged over 65 will have doubled.

Also, the younger generations now are expected to be living just as longer lives. So, what EveryAGE Counts achieves in its battle against ageism now will benefit both the current older Australians and the ageing generations that follow them.

Losing the stereotypes of yesteryear is part of the change process. "New generations of older people, including me, are refusing to accept the attitudes and stereotypes about our own experience of growing older; we want to age differently from the previous generations, and we are," Ms Toohey said.

Co-chair of the EveryAGE Counts coalition steering group Robert Tickner said the coalition has set itself five key areas within the campaign's work of achieving enduring attitude changes:

  • Advocacy, whole of government political engagement and public campaigning.
  • Addressing structural barriers particularly where ageist policies or entrenched practices prevent access to participation.
  • Increasing the diversity and accuracy of representations, including language, of older people in the media, advertising, the arts and public discussion.
  • Build around Australia the grassroots social movement.
  • More research and policy development.

"If we are seriously going to tackle ageism, we have got to do more just pass and effectively enforce laws," Mr Tickner said.

"We have got to change what is in people's hearts and what is in their heads, that entrenched acceptance of the practice that it's okay to be ageist and to dismiss part of our human family, not because of anything they have done wrong, but simply because of their chronological age."

For more information on the campaign and to follow its progress, go to www.everyagecounts.org.au.


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