Ageism Awareness Day: How journalists can combat age discrimination

Ageism Awareness Day: How journalists can combat age discrimination

Ageism is the most socially acceptable form of discrimination and can impact people at any stage of life. If you’re a young adult, you may have been denied opportunities because you “lack experience”. If you’re middle-aged, ageism may have prevented you from finding stable employment. And if you’re aged 62 or above, you may have been stereotyped as being isolated, unwell, or forgetful.

A recent report, published by The Australian Human Rights Commission, found that 63 per cent of Australians have experienced ageism in the past five years. The rates of ageism are even higher amongst Australia’s older population.

To address this, advocacy campaign, EveryAGE Counts, is launching Australia's first Ageism Awareness Day today, 1st October, to coincide with the United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons.

Why should the media care about ageism?
The media plays an important role in recognising the contributions and experiences of older Australians. A report released by the NSW Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing (MACA) found that poor representations of older Australians in the media can lead to a lack of understanding about the issues that affect them. This can have lasting effects for older communities, including uninformed policies and ill-equipped support services, poorer health outcomes, reduced quality of life and isolation. According to MACA, it is vital that journalists creating content about older Australians do so responsibly.

Here are three things journalists can think about when filing stories about Australia’s older population:

If a person’s age isn’t relevant to a story, it probably doesn’t need to be included. Journalists should ask themselves if the same yarn was about a young adult, would their age be included in the story? MACA’s report recommends rather than highlight a person's age, journalists should focus on a person’s skill and experience levels in a particular area.
A person’s age should not be treated as a barrier in a story, as age doesn't prevent an individual’s chance of success. Phrasing like “despite being 88-years-old” in a story incorrectly suggests that people can be limited by their age. For this reason, older people’s achievements shouldn’t be framed as “remarkable feats” despite their age. The report recommends journalists consider how they would cover the same feat being achieved by a younger person, to ensure their content isn’t patronising.
As we age, we continue contributing to the community. This means that the current contributions of older people, as well as their successes from earlier in life, should be celebrated in the media. Stories that only focus on the retrospective achievements of an older person, such as wartime stories, fail to acknowledge the contribution of that person to the community today.

For more tips on creating content about older people, read MACA’s full report online.

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