Ageist attitudes and discriminating barriers could soon start to diminish, one individual at a time, if a new three-phase research trial into seniors and the role of respect proves to be successful.
Not-for-profit provider, Benetas, will work in partnership with Deakin University to run the research project, Wellbeing in the elderly: the role of respect, which will investigate why seniors are disrespected, and what can be done to ensure that society adopts a better attitude.
Funded by the Australian Research Council, the first phase will initially include more than 200 participants, selected from a wide cross-section of the community who will participate in group discussions. Focus topics, which centre around usefulness and contribution, will provide Benetas with an insight into the issues of respect, or the lack of respect for older adults.
The results will then be used to formulate a training program, which Benetas will then trial on aged care staff, as part of the second phase. If their training program is deemed to be successful, then the provider will roll it out as the third and final step in their three-year program.
Benetas’ research and development manager, Alan Gruner, said that unfortunately, he expects that the results of the first phase will indicate that society, in general, does not view older people very highly.
He explained that prevailing ageist attitudes all comes down to economics. Older people are seen to be invaluable because they are retired and, according to many, they do not contribute anything to society.
“People think of their contribution in economic terms but they overlook a lot, particularly the volunteering area,” Mr Gruner said.
“Unfortunately, reports like the Intergenerational Report also portray older people to be a burden on society and that is not the case at all. [These sorts of reports] don’t make people aware of their value to society like volunteering, and in terms of relationships they have with their families and friends.
“They overlook the fact that a lot of older people through years of experience have learnt a lot of things. There’s no doubt about it. Unfortunately, they have always been portrayed in a negative way.
Mr Gruner says that media coverage as well as coined phrase “the ageing population” hinders rather than helps the aged.
“Older people these days are much healthier, are working longer and contributing much more than they did in the past. They are really not a burden at all. They are a very positive influence in our society.”
The upcoming research project is an extension of a previous Benetas’ project, Respect in an ageing society (completed last year) which aims to provide a more in-depth evaluation of respect and the elderly.