Date: 
Friday 21 June 2013

The Commission has released specially commissioned research by Urbis that provides evidence of the negative stereotypes about older people that so many people in Australia hold as beliefs, subscribe to in workplaces and are exposed to in our media.

“This research quantifies some of the stereotypical beliefs people hold about older people that lead to discriminatory attitudes and behaviours, “ said Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan   . “These attitudes and behaviours act as barriers that prevent many older people from reaching their full potential in workplaces and in the community.”

“One of the conclusions of the report is that our media influences negative perceptions of older Australians,” Commissioner Ryan said. “It highlights the prevalence of negative stereotypes in portrayals of older people in media and advertising in Australia, as well as the under-representation of older people in the media.”

“Crucially, it also reveals that these sorts of stereotypes and invisibility have influenced perceptions in the younger generations, created negative employer attitudes and impacted negatively on the way older people view themselves,” she said.

The research findings show that ‘ageing’ is a loaded term that holds predominantly negative connotations, particularly among younger people.

Seventy-one per cent of people feel that age discrimination is common in Australia.

Attributes like ’lonely’, ‘isolated’, ‘victims of crime’, ‘forgetful’, ‘have difficulty learning complex tasks’ and ‘likely to be sick’ are commonly held stereotypical beliefs that are counter to how older people see themselves and their experiences.

One in ten businesses have an age above which they will not recruit – and that age is 50.

“With the expected radical change in the age proflle of our population over the next 50 years, resulting in over 25 per cent of people being aged 65 and over, shifting these attitudes and behaviours is imperative,” Commission Ryan said. “It is interesting that this research highlights so clearly the constructive role that our media and advertising industries can play.”

“It is vital we recognize that the growth in the number of older Australians provides significant and very real economic and social benefits and opportunities,” said Ms Ryan. “It is my hope that it will encourage constructive collaboration between media, advertisers and corporate Australia to present older Australians in a more accurate, balanced and diverse manner that reflect more realistically their value, capability and experience. 

The report is available at:  www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/fact-or-fiction-stereotypes-older-australians-research-report-2013