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What Can We Do About Ageism?

Do you think ageism is too common in Ireland today?

Are older people seen as being wiser because of their age or as a burden on society? And ae elderly people credited with their hard work in creating the Ireland of today, of farming with limited means, of building roads, of living in substandard housing, of bringing up large families, of building companies that we can be proud of, of teaching our children? Are they unintentionally being stigmatised because of their age? Or is it all a storm in a teacup?

Have you heard of the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing which was set up in 2010? It was set up to protect the rights of older people. It is believed that ageism is too prevalent in our society. The OEWGA held its fifth session recently (in New York) to discuss human rights in relation to older people.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

There is a Convention on the Rights of the Child that deals with issues that children may face such as child protection and adoption.  There is no equivalent for older people, they aren’t offered similar protections. Although there is awareness of elder abuse and the HSE works to combat it (with care companies such as ours at Comfort Keepers taking steps to prevent or notice any risk of it), It could be argued that more needs to be done. Age Action is calling on Ireland to support the drafting of a new Convention but they are aware it could take a decade to achieve it.

When you realise that by 2030, 16% or 1,375 million of the total population of the world will be over 60 years old (compared to 11% / 809 million today). There will be more people older than 60 than there will be children under 10 which really shows that the increase in the population isn’t just due to the increasing birth rate but to so many of us living for much longer. What this means is that not only will more resources be needed for the number of people on pensions but as there will be more older people, it is increasingly important that their rights are protected.

Examples of ageism include:

  • If a person loses a job because of their age.
  • Being refused interest-free credit, a new credit card, car insurance or travel insurance because of their age.
  • Receiving a lower quality of service in a shop or restaurant.
  • Being dismissed for your opinion because of your age.
  • Being refused a referral from a doctor to a consultant because you are ‘too old’.
  • Being refused membership to a club or trade association because of your age.
  • If older people are represented negatively in the media, this can affect people’s attitudes.
  • Even being told ‘you look good for your age’ can be considered ageism as it suggests that looking 60/70/80/90 is negative

What do you think? Does Ireland need to do more to combat Ageism? What would you suggest?

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