This Friday will bring with it a battle of the generations as the baby boomers and builders engage with representatives from generation X and Y, in the Great Respect Debate at Melbourne Town Hall.

Bracing the topic, ‘Seniors must earn respect’, three older Victorians aged 54 to 75 years old will argue affirmatively for the statement while three younger Victorians aged 17 to 29 will debate the case against.

The debate- presented by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Benetas and the Victorian’s Seniors Festival– will create a community conversation about respect for older people while highlighting the truth about what people actually think.

The event comes off the back of recent Benetas research into the topic of respect for older Australians, released earlier this year. The research findings generated significant media interest and public debate across the nation, stimulating the idea for the public discussion.

The Young Victorians…

Victoria’s Young Australian of the Year and part of the refuting team, Wesa Chau, believes that although older people definitely deserve respect, it is not something that should be “earnt”.

“It just should be given,” Ms Chau said. “Respect should be free for all, not just senior people but everyone in society, regardless of who they are.

“For seniors especially, they’ve been contributing to society for a long time. So regardless of how the situation is now, they should be respected by all.”

Ms Chau believes that it is common for her fellow X’ers to disrespect older people, be it with or without an intention to do so: “I suppose that just on public transport, some people don’t even offer their seat for seniors and for me that is disrespectful to senior people.”

“The other problem in nowadays is that [younger] people have less time to spend with senior people in their lives. It is actually quite sad that because of this, a lot of life stories get lost.

“If you look at our senior people, a lot of older people have come from non-English speaking backgrounds and have been through war. So listening to their stories is just fascinating.”

Ms Chau advised her peers to dedicate more time to socialising with the older people in their life and community. “Spend more time with senior people to show them your respect…They deserve that time. “

The Senior Victorians…

On the affirmative team will be CEO of the Victorian State Emergency Service, Mary Barry. Aged 54, Ms Barry commented on the challenges associated with ageing.

“Throughout my life I had to earn the respect of people,” Ms Barry said. “When I am older it will be challenging to continue to earn respect in a society that doesn’t value the contribution of older people to start with.

“[Right now], I work and I contribute to the economy, but what happens when I retire? Overnight do I just change, and does my contribution becomes less valued because I am retired?

Ms Barry mentioned how society has changed in past years, due to changing demographics which have altered the family structure, the technological revolution and advances in communication.

“It’s all about what we value in society these days. We value new things, new technology and plasma screens. They look at older people and look at the past, not the future. When you look at children, they look to the future.

…But if we don’t learn from the past we make mistakes in the future and that link is missing.

“Older people have a lot to contribute to the community like a lot of wisdom and life experience that they can share… If only they would listen.”

The debate will be adjudicated by social commentator and demographer, Bernard Salt, and MC’d by Channel Nine personality, Pete Smith.

For more information click here.

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