Thank you to CEO Craig, and dedicated team Lydia, Lence and Mandy.
My background is writing for 20 years for a baby boomers’ website, YourLifeChoices, which my husband and I owned until 2019. We would frequently survey the 250,000 members and I couldn’t help but notice how often older people were ‘written off’ well before their time.
One lady, Ailsa, even commented, “We’re not dead yet!”
In addition to publishing, my work has also involved advocacy – firstly as a director for seven years on the International Federation on Ageing and now, more recently with the EveryAGE Counts (EAC) campaign (more about that later).
Our two decades of publishing for boomers started in 1999 when I was 45 and thought of older people as ‘not my generation’, most probably referring to older Australians as ‘them’, a subtle form of ostracisation I didn’t understand.
I’m now 67 – technically a senior – so I’m now one of ‘them’ or ‘us’ -whatever that means? And I have 20-plus years of thinking about ageism to reflect upon.
So here are my observations.
Taking it easy is the theme of this year’s Seniors Festival.
Hmmmmmm! I’m not sure that works for me.
EAC was set up as a campaign to tackle ageism under the auspices of The Benevolent Society.
The cost of ageism is simply immeasurable – both materially and emotionally.
There are instances of ageism all around us. In particular, the Covid pandemic highlighted this when we were told that older people ‘were going to die anyway’. My mum, Betty, is aged 95. She lives in in residential care. And I simply don’t accept this statement about her or anyone else. This is ageism.
I’m privileged to be on the Steering Committee for EveryAGE Counts which I joined a few years ago as a foundation member. The committee really is a who’s who of people who care about and actively promote the rights of older Australians – people such as Age Discrimination Commissioner, Kay Patterson, CEO of National Seniors, John McCallum, Activist and author, Jane Caro, CEO, Marlene Krasovitsky and our very committed Chair, Robert Tickner.
EAC Campaigns draw attention to ageism.
But they are also about getting people on board – making them aware and exciting them to take action in their own small ways – or large as is the case with the City of Whittlesea taking the pledge against ageism today.
To give some context, across Australia there are 537 councils and shires.
In Victoria there are 79.
It’s early days, but already 12 councils have become members of the campaign, of which seven are in Victoria.
As a proud Victorian, I’m delighted to see how we are punching well above our weight!!
I’d now like to acknowledge the City of Whittlesea’s work, of which you may not know full extent:
- An extensive Elder Abuse Prevention & Awareness Raising program
- Additional programs for active ageing (golf, walking football and exercise)
- Social connections and support group programs
- Healthy ageing and awareness
- Lifelong learning and
- Digital literacy.
There are also 80 senior citizen clubs supported through the council’s grants program.
I’d also like to support the earlier acknowledgement of traditional owners of the land upon which we are meeting – to underscore the importance of this Indigenous culture which is based upon respect for elders. Modern Australia seems to have lost this sentiment somewhere along the way.
And now let’s talk about you because I’m certainly not here to talk at you.
I’m much more interested in provoking, challenging and awakening your interest to ensure that you’re getting the best deal and respect.
We all deserve respect but sometimes older Australians can be overlooked, ignored or treated with disdain – even abused.
Taking the EAC pledge means saying, No more! Enough! Not on my watch!
What’s your role in this?
Firstly, it’s to think about what you accept as okay, question it and push back when necessary
Here’s an example.
Think about how you describe yourself. Five-year-olds forget, as do 45-year-olds and 75-year-olds.
Never, never, never call this a senior moment. This labels forgetfulness as an old person’s disease. It’s not and you’re just adding fuel to the flames of ageism, as innocent as your remark may sound.
In fact don’t apologise for any aspect of any loss of ability, mobility or the need to be helped. Just ask to be helped. We all need to normalise this expectation. It’s not a favour to help someone less mobile get to their destination. It’s a necessity.
And please don’t give business to businesses that treat older people as dumb consumers. You’ve seen the silly old lady and silly old men advertisements, often associated with insurance products and hearing aids.
The best revenge for this disrespect is to stop buying their product until they get the message in the only language they understand – bottom line profits.
And lastly, don’t limit yourself or your dreams.
One of my favourite stories this year is that of Guiseppe Patterno from Palermo in Sicily, who got his first degree at age 96.
He typed it on an old Corona typewriter, the kind Hemingway used in post-war Paris..
If you think this was a cool achievement, then wait – there’s more.
Guiseppe has now gone on to get his Masters this year at age 98.
And says he will now write a novel. On the same typewriter.
Says Giuseppe, “My neighbours used to ask, ‘Why all this trouble at your age?’ But they couldn’t understand the importance of reaching a dream, regardless of my age,”
So let’s defy the motto of the Seniors Festival, taking it easy.
Please don’t take it easy
Your haven’t run out of juice
Be like Guiseppe!
Keep trying, learning, engaging and challenging the status quo.
In closing, my main message today is that there is never, ever ever a time limit on dreams. I hope that you dream big and continue to fulfill your true potential through to 98 – and beyond.
Speech delivered by Kaye Fallick on behalf of the EveryAGE Counts Campaign at City of Whittlesea Seniors Festival, October 7, 2022