Ageism must stop for Royal Commission to achieve its goals

While the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety presents an opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the systemic issues that contribute to older Australians being mistreated in aged care facilities, the root cause, ageism, is going to be harder to expose and eliminate.    

The World Health Organisation offers the following definition of ageism:  

“Ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age. Ageism is widespread and an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults….Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice, and is not widely countered – like racism or sexism.” 

Cybele Koning, Director – Family, Domestic Violence & Elder Law, believes a cultural and paradigm shift is required in order to counter attitudes which demean older people. 

“It is common to see people from all walks of life use language which stereotypes or infantilises older people. Better outcomes across the board, from within aged care facilities to family relationships, depend on attitudes which respect the humanity of seniors,” said Ms Koning. 

“The consequences of ageism are real – from physical violence to financial exploitation. We really need to change this collective attitude if we want to promote the right of older people to live free from abuse, exploitation, mistreatment and neglect.”   

Caxton Legal Centre and ADA Australia will tackle the issue of ageism as they host the 2019 National Elder Abuse Conference in Brisbane on July 22 and 23.