Challenging Ageism

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

There seems to be a day dedicated to everything you could think of and Tuesday of this week marked a very special one – the International Day of Older Persons.

Bit of a mouthful and therefore often reduced to IDOP, but October 1st has been designated in respect of older people by no less than United Nations.

Each year the United Nations recognise days dedicated to a total of 167 different subjects and there are 17 in this month alone ranging from World Teachers Day (5th) to the World Migratory Bird Day (12th)

But the need to recognise Older Person’s Day is something that has long been recognised, and it is for good reason that a day is set aside to revere, respect and reflect on older people across the world.

No more so than in Torbay where we have joined a network of communities across the world who are aiming to ensure that they become ‘Age-friendly’ or put another way a place that puts older people at the top of their agendas

Earlier this year, Caroline Diamond, Torbay Council’s Director of Public Health and Ann Wagner the then Director of Strategy and Improvement for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust were visionary enough to put their names to a document that meant that the over 50’s will forever more be taken into account when making decisions in the Bay.

They signed a document that launched Torbay on the way to becoming ‘Age-friendly’ in everything they do and committed to an Age-friendly charter which ensures that the rights of the over 50 population were recognised.

This week, the new leader of the council Steve Darling and his deputy, Darren Cowell, signed an important letter alongside leaders and officials of more than 30 other authorities across the UK.

The letter commits to fighting Ageism where ever it arises and pledges to help build Age-friendly communities across the UK – something that is now firmly in the sights of politicians everywhere.

As a society we have fought and mainly won battles against racism. We have mostly overcome old school attitudes to sexism. We have also taken on outdated attitudes to the disabled. Now is the time fight ageism.

And the likes of Steve and Darren have joined mayors such as Andy Burnham from Manchester and Marvin Rees the Mayor of Bristol as well as leaders as far apart as the Isle of Wight in the South to Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities in campaigning for #ageproud communities.

As the full text of the letter notes:  “like all forms of prejudice and discrimination, even seemingly casual ageism is deeply damaging both to individuals and to our communities, with recent research suggesting that a quarter of people over 50 have felt discriminated against whilst doing everyday tasks or accessing services. Even seemingly positive phrases like ‘you look young for your age’ can reinforce damaging stereotypes.

“So today, as leaders from across the UK who have committed to making our communities great places to grow old in, we are pledging to change the way we talk about ageing.

“Many of us are living for longer, so it’s vital we are all able to make the most of these extra years – and that must start with thinking and talking differently about ageing. From the greater self-confidence many feel in later life to the wealth of experience older workers bring to their workplaces, it’s time we recognised the many opportunities of later life – and began to speak in a way that reflects them.

“If we are to make real progress on the road to age equality, we must all work to root out ageism in our own communities and organisations. We will challenge ageism wherever we see it, whether it’s in public  or in private, and ensure that the voices of older people are at the heart of our local decision-making.”

Fine words, but to make them meaningful it is down to us all to make sure we think before we speak and challenge stereotypical attitudes whenever we come across them.

Soon in Torbay there will be more over 50-year-olds than under 50-year-olds Respect cannot be expected and has to be earned, but simple changes in the way we choose to express ourselves can go a long way to changing attitudes.

We are all growing older and we are doing it in record-breaking numbers and with breakthroughs in medicines alongside better living conditions, there is no reason for that trend to be reversed.

Ageing is a good thing and something that we should all look forward to. We should all be #ageproud.