News & Events

Seniors – be old, bold and proud

June 25, 2018

Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson has congratulated OCAV for ‘retiring retirement’ from its admissions policy.

“You should be proud that you have taken steps to remove the need for anyone coming into OCAV not to be working,” she said.

“It is an important step for your current and future residents and one that shows how you are not only moving with the times, but in many ways ahead of the times.”

The announcement about the change to the admissions’ policy was made at the Association’s second Conversations for Change on 22 June at which Dr Patterson spoke about the measures she was taking to change the landscape for older Australians.

Dr Patterson told Conversations for Change that as Australians live longer, healthier lives, there is an ever-increasing opportunity to harness the contributions of older people across all segments of our society. For example, a mere three per cent increase in workforce participation by the over 55s would generate a $33 billion annual boost to the national economy.

“It seems to me, however, that as a society we are not capitalising on this opportunity,” Dr Patterson said.

Despite the good work being done, negative stereotypes about older people remain prevalent in our community. These stereotypes can serve as barriers to an older person’s full participation in life.

“We can’t underestimate what a profound effect this can have on people. It can impact their employment, finances, health and their overall enjoyment of life, and sense of satisfaction,” Dr Patterson said.

“These stereotypes can be so insidious that they come to be internalised and held by the older person themselves. They can lead people to doubt their own abilities and set low expectations for themselves—and so the self-fulfilling prophecy goes.”

She called on all Australians to collectively foster a dialogue about the meaningful contributions that can be made to society by older people.

One of the major issues she is working on currently is to make real the many recommendations in the Human Rights’ Commission’s Willing to Workreport, published in 2016. The report makes it clear that many older Australians are willing and able to work but are prevented from doing so by age discrimination and lack of positive policies and supports.

“I have been speaking with relevant Ministers and their departments about recommendations relevant to their portfolios, and in particular ways to enhance the workforce participation of older Australians and possible areas of collaboration,” she told Conversations for Change.

She was heartened to see funding allocated in the 2018/19 Budget for a range of measures to help older Australians to continue working for as long as they want, including: rolling out the ‘Skills checkpoint for Older Workers’ program, and expanding the ‘Entrepreneurship Facilitators’ program to support mature age entrepreneurs.

More recently the Commissioner has also been approaching industry and peak bodies about the benefits of older workers including encouraging the development of Continuing Professional Development courses or training for Human Resources and managers.

“Clearly, businesses and organisations need to ensure that their policies and practices do not discriminate against older people.”

“But it is also the informal everyday action that will make a difference— dispel myths about older people when you see them, challenge stereotypes. Be an advocate for older people’s abilities and with this persistency people will start to think differently about ageing,” she urged.

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