From left: Sue McGrath, Paul Johnson and Lidia Conci

Ramping up education among children and rolling out more intergenerational programs will help address negative attitudes about ageing and ageism, aged care stakeholders tell an industry conference.

Lidia Conci, managing director of aged care allied health provider AvantiCare, said ageism existed in aged care and throughout society because older people were not valued.

“It’s embedded in our psyche that ageing is an illness and when you get to a certain age where you cannot contribute… It’s not with malicious intent, but we do not value the capability that an older person has to contribute to society,” Ms Conci told the Leading Age Services Australia National Congress this week.

She said the negative attitudes about ageing were prevalent among all age groups, and younger people particularly see the elderly as a burden.

Ageism is visible everywhere including in movies and on social media, Ms Conci said.

“There are constant jokes and euphemisms about elderly people… and it just shapes the way a young person considers an older human being,” she said.

Fellow panel member Sue McGrath, senior policy advisor at Benevolent Society and its EveryAGE Counts campaign, said intergenerational connections were key to creating age-friendly communities.

“Children who have lots of contact with multiple generations grow up with less negative attitudes and less ageism towards older people,” Ms McGrath said.

Early and ongoing connections with older people can shape how society sees its older citizens, Ms McGrath said.

Ms Conci agreed implementing intergenerational programs was a useful strategy to stop ageism.

Research has shown the huge benefits, she said.

“There is nothing better than intergenerational care… It’s a benefit to the older community and the children.”

Young people should also learn positive ageing messages as part of their education, Ms Conci said.

“I strongly believe that we need to be looking at the curriculum in the way we teach our youth… and the way in which we frame ageing,” she said.

“This needs to be tackled at a young age in the education system… they’re the ones who are going to be looking after us, so we need to change their attitudes now,” Ms Conci said.

Calls to involve residents more in service design

Ms McGrath said some aged care providers were involving residents and older people in the development of services, but there needed to be much more of it.

Not involving older people is another element of ageism, she said.

“We absolutely have to remind ourselves repeatedly that we need to hear directly from older people,” Ms McGrath said. “Not having existing older people involved is just another form of isolation and segregation.”

Ms Conci said they are discussing having residents attend meetings and get involved in future facility developments at the organisation where she serves on the board.

“Residents need to be a part of that discussion, it’s their home. We think we know what they want, but they’re the ones that actually know what they want,” she said.

The LASA National Congress was held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on 27-29 October.

Read more from the LASA National Congress

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Read Community Care Review’s congress coverage

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