You are only as old as you feel. Older people are healthier, wealthier and altogether more content than they have been in the past, leading long and active lives and contributing to their communities long past retirement. And yet the word ‘old’ is sometimes used synonymously with ‘frail’ or ‘powerlessness’. We know this to be untrue, and seek to debunk some of the discriminations falsely associated with older people.
Age discrimination is essentially an occurrence wherein a person is treated less favourably, or is faced with unreasonable requirements or restrictions, based solely on their age. And much of this is rooted in ageing myths.
There are numerous misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding seniors, with the following being some of the most common:
Reality: Many people will become slightly forgetful when they get older. This is normal and rarely an indicator of serious memory problems. In fact, only 5% of older people are affected by dementia, and the risk is lowered further when the brain is kept active and the body kept healthy.
Reality: At 93 years of age, Dr Liz Kirkby became Australia’s oldest graduate after completing a PhD at the University of Sydney. “I think it is terribly wrong that as soon as a person reaches a certain age they are automatically written off as too old,” she said. People should be judged on their capacity, not their age. There are an increasing number of older people pursuing university degrees, increasing their knowledge, and learning new skills. A love of learning is all that is ever needed.
Reality: People aged 65 and over actually have much lower rates of victimisation for theft, criminal assault and all other types of offences than those aged between 20 and 64 years. It is also worth noting that older people who are actively involved in their community are least likely to become anxious about crime.
Reality: People aged over 50 are more likely to have lower incomes, but have high rates of homeownership. They often contribute to their communities as volunteers, with their unpaid work being valued at over $38 billion per year. They spend nearly $900 million on domestic travel annually, with the senior’s travel market being a promising target for continued growth. Moreover, the generosity of older people is unmatched, with a study of Australian donations showing that 22% of the $1.3 billion total was made by people aged over 65.
Reality: Most older people remain active, alert and aware, well into their senior years. The perception that growing old means being frail or unwell can be attributed to our longer life spans. Medical advances and disease prevention mean that people are living longer lives, and thus we are seeing an increase in chronic diseases. Nonetheless, the majority of these can be managed over time, allowing older people to remain involved and interested for years to come.
Home Nursing Group supports older people to remain in their own homes for longer. Home care is a sustainable and affordable option, which can prevent older people entering institutional care when they may not need it.
Some older people may come to accept and adopt the negative stereotypes attributed to them, making them feel frail, lonely or unwanted. Home Nursing Group supports older people in the community to live healthy, safe and fulfilling lives. All of us share a responsibility to eliminate the misconceptions associated with older people, and to treat all people with the respect and admiration they deserve.