Victorian seniors have taken the debating trophy, proving that they are not only the masters of the verbal art form but that their affirmative argument in last week’s Great Respect Debate, was actually superior- seniors should earn respect! 

The debate, organised by not-for-profit aged care provider Benetas and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, pinned the generations against each other with the young Victorians on one side versus their older counterparts on the other.

After two compelling and thought provoking arguments about respect for older people, it was finally decided by adjudicator and social commenator, Bernard Salt, that the affirmative team delivered a more convincing argument.

Mr Salt said that while the younger team took a more philosophical approach, debating that older people should just be given respect, the older team actually refuted the actual state of play as it stands now- that older people, on the whole, do not receive respect.

“I think the concept of the debate is terribly important, to reset the agenda,” said Mr Salt.

“Old age needs a makeover. It’s daggy. It’s not much fun and it’s not really sexy. But just you wait until the baby boomers get their hands on it. They’ll make it groovy.”

He praised the arguments made by the winning team including the presentation delivered by former Governor General, Dr Peter Hollingworth, which focused on how a money-obsessed society impacts levels of respect.

“Once you are not participating in the income economy, your stocks fall…It brings home the point that we have a very money focused environment,” Mr Salt said. 

Across the board, throughout middle Australia and across all age groups, respect for older people is lacking. “I just don’t think that [respect] is evident enough now. That was the point.”

But, he said, in the future the baby boomer generation will work well into retirement, in a reduced capacity, as a way of supplementing income and keeping connected to social and commercial communities.

“A change in attitudes does not occur from one year to the next. The best you can hope for is that by the end of this decade and [in around] 2020, there will be greater respect for older Australians.”

The event was attended by around 500 people, both older and young, hosted as part of the 2010 Victorian Seniors Festival.

It followed on from a Deakin University and Benetas research paper which investigated society’s attitudes towards older people (launched March this year). 

“I think it’s an issue that people haven’t discussed before or when they have heard it its something that’s been discussed in the deep dark past,” said Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills.

“It showed to me that people of all ages were willing to lend their time, free of charge, to get the issue on the agenda.”

“We really believe that if older people are going to be able to have the opportunity to age well and have a positive experience of ageing, then I believe that respect is a fundamental part of that.”

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