Ageism and Discrimination

Ageism and Discrimination

COTA is opposed to age discrimination in any and all spheres of life. COTA believes all people have the right to dignity, security, access to high quality services and equality in participation in the community regardless of their income, status, background, location or any other social or economic factor.

COTA supports initiatives that recognise the capacities and contributions of older Australians and actively combat ageism and age discrimination. COTA Australia believes that the impact of ageism, based on negative and incorrect age stereotypes, restricts the participation and inclusion of older people in all aspects of Australian life. This has adverse effects on both the community and on older people.

Ageist attitudes in the community mean that older people are perceived to be less deserving or, alternatively, are incapacitated and in need of protection. Ageism is discrimination based on age, without any evidence base, and is especially prejudicial and detrimental to the very old (often called “the elderly”. In this context, ageism is the inability or refusal to recognise the rights, needs, dignity continuing contributions, and value of people in an older age group. More widely, ageism also denotes the devaluing of various traits of character or intelligence as ‘typical’ of the members of the older age group.

Ageism is endemic in our society. It is experienced by older people in the forms of speech by which they are addressed, evident in the media where negative and ageist stereotypes are promulgated, and in the health system where organisational and process bias invariably tends to give older people and their illnesses a lower priority. Ageism is also apparent in reduced access to employment, in the attitudes of employers to older workers, in lack of access to appropriate training and professional development and, in general, in the undervaluing of the skills, experience and earned wisdom of most older people.

Older people, like all people, are entitled to those services which are relevant to their physical, social, mental and spiritual needs and which contribute to their quality of life and general wellbeing. In COTA’s view, ageist attitudes impact negatively on not only the kinds of services which are available to older people, but also on the ways in which services are accessed and delivered. Are older people able to access and receive the services they need? How appropriate are these services, and do they provide flexibility to meet individual differences? The answers to these questions are currently most often, No!

COTA will continue to work with Governments and service providers to ensure overt and covert ageist behaviours are mitigated and where possible eliminated.

COTA believes that the Commonwealth government should review all Commonwealth legislation and amend any federal law which embodies discriminatory provisions based on age. One such area is the exemptions provided to doctors and hospitals under the Age Discrimination Act that permit age barriers for a range of treatments and procedures.

The Commonwealth government should also exercise maximum pressure on State and Territory governments to remove discriminatory laws, policies and practices at their level of government, starting immediately with longstanding and abhorrent age based workers compensation legislation.

Additionally, COTA believes there needs to be a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older People to provide a definitive, universal position that age discrimination is morally and legally unacceptable, and to provide legally binding protection with accompanying accountability mechanisms.