A new report released today (14 September) by the Australian Human Rights Commission has found most Australians (90%) agree ageism exists in Australia, with 83% agreeing ageism is a problem and 65% saying it affects people of all ages.
These findings were included in the Commission’s latest report, led by Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson, What’s age got to do with it? A snapshot of ageism across the Australian lifespan.
The report found ageism remains the most accepted form of prejudice in Australia, with 63% having experienced ageism in the last five years.
“Ageism is arguably the least understood form of discriminatory prejudice, with evidence suggesting it is more pervasive and socially accepted than sexism or racism,” Dr Patterson said.
Ageism is experienced in different ways
The research was undertaken by the Commission in 2020 and 2021 to explore what Australians think about age and ageism across the adult lifespan. It found ageism is experienced in different ways.
Among the findings is that young adults (18-39) are most likely to experience ageism as being condescended to or ignored, particularly at work.
However, middle-aged people (40-61) are most likely to experience ageism as being turned down for a job, while older people (62+) are more likely to experience ageism as being ‘helped’ without being asked.
It also shows the generations have much in common – but that there are ongoing tensions, which arise from stereotypes held by one generation about another. When these were questioned, most Australians rejected the stereotype.
Warmth expressed to other age groups
The research found that 70% of Australians disagreed with the sentiment that ‘today’s older generation is leaving the world in a worse state than it was before’, and fewer than 20% agreed that any age group was a ‘burden on their family’ or a ‘burden on society’.
“While we found common stereotypes about different age groups during our research, I was struck by the warmth expressed by participants towards members of age cohorts other than their own – and a real understanding of the life issues faced by those of other age groups,” Dr Patterson said.
The report uncovers what it means to be a certain age is also changing. Increased longevity, changing social mores, cultural factors and economic shifts mean people are realising key milestones at later ages – such as completing an education, buying a home or having children.
“Every Australian must do what they can to challenge ageist attitudes in themselves and others, so together we can reduce ageism for Australians of all ages. Age is not the problem. Ageism is,” stated Dr Patterson.