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What’s Ageism?

19 April 2018 at 8:00 am
The importance of advocating against ageism and for people to live the best life they can is the fundamental thrust of The Benevolent Society’s EveryAGE Counts campaign, which is set to launch later this year.

Contributor | 19 April 2018 at 8:00 am


What’s Ageism?
19 April 2018 at 8:00 am

The importance of advocating against ageism and for people to live the best life they can is the fundamental thrust of The Benevolent Society’s EveryAGE Counts campaign, which is set to launch later this year.

Philanthropy and advocacy haven’t always gone hand in hand, but there is a move to a collaboration with corresponding commitment: a belief in the power of advocacy and the understanding that without philanthropy, transformative change may not be possible.

What distinguishes social change philanthropy from other forms of philanthropy is that the success of social change philanthropy is measured by the money given as well as the measure of change. There are specific giving principles to support the campaigns so that specific results will occur.

The Benevolent Society has always been committed to advocacy because there are social issues that require change, education and awareness campaigns in order to effectively challenge long-standing behaviour.

Philanthropists often provide the funding for advocates to engage in change-making behaviour, without having to gingerly walk the tightrope of governmental or political party policy.

The Benevolent Society currently has a campaign to challenge ageism, discriminatory behaviour towards people on the basis of their age, particularly in the workplace.

The campaign will launch officially later this year, but there are many ways to become involved, either from a philanthropic or some other perspective. Find out more at

It is an issue that is close to The Benevolent Society’s heart. Former president of The Benevolent Society Dr Arthur Renwick established the Old Age Pension League, a professional successful publicity campaign to raise awareness of the plight of “the old and impoverished”. He advocated and helped to establish the Age Pension in NSW, the first of its kind in the world, in 1901, in order to care for older people who were destitute and starving. This was the precursor to the current Commonwealth age pension.

Ageism continues to be an important issue today, as people over 50 are being discriminated against both in the workplace and in the pursuit of work.

In a recent survey, The Benevolent Society found that of 1,005 Australians aged 50 plus, 92 per cent of whom work full time or part time, 40 per cent said they either didn’t know what ageism was or they had heard of it, but weren’t sure what it meant. This is consistent with The Benevolent Society’s Drivers of Ageism research which also found that while ageism is becoming a more familiar term, it is still foreign to some.

But once respondents started to describe their experiences in either seeking work or whilst in the workplace, it was clear that ageism is firmly fixed in our society. People are coming face to face with it every day, but aren’t aware that it’s actually ageism.

“This indicates that ageism can be so entrenched in the workplace, people sometimes don’t realise when they are being discriminated against because of their age,” Marlene Krasovitsky, director campaigns – older Australians at The Benevolent Society, said.

Even though people may not be clear on the concept of ageism, the results of the survey indicated that they were often confronted by it.

Many described their experiences and what was said to them, and it was right to the point:

  • “You’d have a better chance if you dyed the grey in your hair.”
  • “You’ll probably be retiring soon so I’d rather not give you any work.”
  • “At your age, you won’t be around long.”
  • “Are you planning to retire soon?”
  • “We have a young team.”

Marlene said: “We need to call out ageist behaviours and attitudes. Ageism has negative impacts on people’s lives and on our society.

“It is because of the ageism that people experience over and over again that we decided to build the EveryAGE Counts campaign. Based on a broad, nationally based coalition of organisations and individuals, The Benevolent Society will embark on a long term campaign to change negative attitudes towards getting older, and older Australians, and mobilise a holistic political response to the opportunities presented by our ageing population.”

What the survey also discovered was that respondents said that if they were over 50 and looking for work, they were often told by recruiters, employment agencies or potential employers: “You’re exactly what we’re looking for but we’ll give the role to someone younger who will be around longer”, “You’ll be bored with the job”, “You may not be able to do [a particular task], you don’t fit the company culture”, “You’re over qualified”. These are euphemisms for “you’re too old”.

“Unfortunately there are many stereotypes and assumptions about older workers that lock them out of work,” Marlene said.

“This can have devastating impacts on older people themselves, and with Australia’s ageing demographics, this has negative impacts on our economy as well.

“Many of us are living longer, healthier lives and we want to, or need to, keep working. For many the idea of retiring at age 65 is an outmoded idea. It’s heartbreaking, and ridiculous, that people are thought of as unusable past age 50.”

The Benevolent Society survey found several respondents who said they decided to study new skills and start their own business.

These respondents are not alone. Australia’s fastest growing segment of new business owners, are people over aged 55. Referred to as “seniorpreneurs” or “silverpreneurs”, they are starting their own businesses because if they are the boss, they can’t be discriminated against due to their age. Older people in start-ups is a new field of study, according to Dr Alex Maritz of LaTrobe University (ABC, 24 August 2017).

Research from Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology in 2015 found that 34 per cent of all young firms were led by seniorpreneurs with the average age of the founder being 57, and a 2017 study from LaTrobe University discovered that amongst entrepreneurs, 30 per cent are over age 55.

The importance of advocating against ageism and for people to live the best life they can is the fundamental thrust of the EveryAGE Counts campaign. The Benevolent Society’s older Australians advocacy team received a grant from the Wicking Trust Foundation to fund the EveryAGE Counts campaign.

EveryAGE Counts aims to change negative perceptions about getting older and towards older people, and mobilise a holistic political response to the opportunities presented by our ageing population. The campaign is expected to last for several years.

“Changing attitudes and behaviours takes time. Effective advocacy requires money so that people will understand, and get involved with, what we’re trying to accomplish. We are extremely pleased to have been selected by the Wicking Trust for this grant. Working hand in hand, philanthropy and advocacy are powerful forces for change,” added Marlene.

If you’d like to get involved in the EveryAge Counts campaign in any way, visit

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