In September 2017 we launched the findings from the research project that we undertook in order to tackle the issue of ageism
Tackling ageism continues a proud campaigning tradition!
The Benevolent Society provides a range of services to children, families, seniors and people with disability. But that’s not the whole story. Another major part of what we have always done is campaigning and advocacy for important causes. As Australia’s oldest charity, we’ve been campaigning for a just society for all Australians for over 200 years. Today, our Strategic Engagement, Research and Advocacy group continues this important role. In September 2017 we launched the findings from the research project that we undertook in order to tackle the issue of ageism.
Cracking the ageism nut
The Benevolent Society recognises that cracking the ageism nut will require clever, strategic thinking, a broad supporter base and a range of angles of attack - including politicians, bureaucrats, businesses, families, communities and individuals. But it is also going to take time and commitment. So at this stage we have committed to at least ten years.
Initially, we have done some research with two objectives in mind. The first was to better understand the key ‘drivers’ of ageism - why we have such strong negative attitudes to and beliefs about older people and ageing. Understanding the key drivers will give us the best insights into the 'levers' we need to pull to change some of that thinking.
The second objective was to identify some of the common factors found in major advocacy campaigns that have been successful in changing attitudes and behaviours.
We published the results of the research – which included a literature review and both qualitative and quantitative research with consumers – to coincide with UN International Day of Older Persons on 1 October 2017. To announce the findings, Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, and social commentator, Jane Caro, were there alongside the CEO of The Benevolent Society, Jo Toohey.
You can look at the key findings and download a copy of the report at EveryAGE Counts, but to summarise, the research tells us that many of the negative beliefs and assumptions we have about ageing and older people are simply not true. They are ultimately blocking our ability to live well and flourish as we age naturally.
We found that people lacked awareness of the positive aspects of older people’s lives and tended to overestimate the negative aspects, such as poor health, financial concerns and dependency. For example, the majority of people in the 70s, 80s and 90s do not live in aged care facilities (a common misconception), but continue to live independently at home, wherever home is.
On the upside, we learned that increased exposure and opportunities for connections with a mix of people from older age groups are associated with less ageist views – a strong argument for more intergenerational activity across workplaces, families and communities. We also learned that negative views were not too strongly held by the majority of people and that most people thought ageism needed to be addressed. This augurs well for the potential to make a positive change.
Overall, we have gained a clear message from the research: if we can harness the learnings, the skills and knowledge we have amassed about changing beliefs and behaviours – at the individual, the community, government and business levels – then we have a reasonable chance of redressing myths and misconceptions, redefining growing older and reaping the benefits of all Australians living longer, healthier lives.
That’s the challenge of the EveryAGE Counts campaign which we will be launching later in 2018 off the back of our research. If you want to support us and get updates as we progress, please sign up at www.everyagecounts.org.au. Meanwhile, watch this space.