EveryAGE Counts is campaigning for change in all of Australia’s communities
Campaigning for and with all of Australia’s diverse communities is an important commitment that the campaign teams at The Benevolent Society has made. To keep us to this goal, the EveryAGE Counts campaign is undertaking a scoping study with the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) to explore the perception and experiences of ageism in different cultures.
Giving meaning to “Ageism” in different cultures
Our starting point was the understanding that not only does the word ageism not have an equivalent in many languages, but the concept itself may not readily translate. Ageism is a relatively new concept even in the English speaking world, and in a country as multicultural as Australia we need to understand the experiences of aged based stereotyping, discrimination and mistreatment as it occurs cross-culturally.
We are also keenly aware that a third of our ageing population is from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background, and that responding to the issue of ageism as though the ageing population is a homogenous group is counterproductive and fundamentally discriminatory.
Fortunately we found supportive and expert partners in the FECCA team. FECCA organised workshops in with four different community groups, across three cities, with a focus on older migrants with limited to no English language. The workshops were held in Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese and Greek.
Strong family connections moderate ageism
From the workshops we learnt that ageism appears to be moderated in cultures where strong family connections and community networks exist. This echoes the findings of the earlier EveryAGE Counts research into the attitudinal drivers of ageism, which found that the level of contact that people have with older people in their personal and professional lives has an impact on their likelihood of displaying ageist behaviours.
Though it can be nuanced, respect for older persons is important in Arab, Chinese, Greek, and Vietnamese families and communities, and wisdom gained from life experience is valued. This is a key theme in how older people in multicultural communities might be experiencing ageism differently from other older Australians. However, it is recognised that this is changing as younger generations grew up in, and are influenced by, more than one culture and come to redefine relationships across generations.
How we design our campaign to speak to all cultures and promote positive change
Perhaps not surprisingly given the life experiences of many migrants, there was a reluctance to commit to change in their communities and to challenge ageism directly, given the value of ‘smooth interpersonal relationships’ in many cultures. This has important implications for how we design our campaign activities to address ageism in these communities.
This is a small start to understanding how ageism impacts on communities, and how our campaigns can make sure that we are inclusive and address ageism for all in our greater Australian community.
To see the report from this research, and to keep in touch with other developments in the EveryAGE Counts campaign, you can sign up at www.everyagecounts.org.au