On 30 September, more than 175 South Australians came together for COTA SA’s Ageing: It’s time to re-write the rules event to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Older Persons.
International Day of Older Persons is an important day on the calendar. It is an opportunity to celebrate the important and valuable contributions that older people make in our community, as well as highlighting the issues faced by everyone as we grow older.
Our new age profile is a significant part of this picture. Currently in South Australia, people aged 50 and over comprise approximately 39% of South Australia’s population, a proportion which is expected to increase to approximately 47% by 2041. And the age group that used to be lumped together as 60+ now includes increasing numbers of people in their 80s, 90s and 100s.
This is both a medical and a social triumph. We have worked hard to achieve longer and healthier lives. Despite this, we are stuck with stereotypes of older age that don’t fit with our reality of living longer lives.
Building on our 2021 event, this year we continued the conversation about ageism by calling out the rules, assumptions, stigmas and stereotypes that are getting in the way of us thriving as we grow older.
What you said
Against an increasing focus on the ‘burden’ or ‘needs’ that our ageing brings are more contemporary views and experiences very different from those of our parents and grandparents.
Before our event, we asked more than older South Australians what
positive words they would use to describe getting older. We heard words
such as freedom, experience, joyous, enlightening, healthy and active.
By contrast, the negative words people used to describe their ageing
experiences included feeling invisible, pain, ill health, loneliness,
uncertainty, and financial insecurity.
New rules to live by
Through our rich conversations and insight collection points, we learnt that the new rulebook for ageing must include rules that can be lived by on a personal level, rules that need to be adopted at a community level and rules required to change at a systemic level.
- Personal rules
Make the most of each day
Learn new things
Eat healthy food
Remain physically active
Be the change you want to see
- Community rules
Be respectful, kind and inclusive
Seek connection across generations
Challenge ageist attitudes whenever they arise
Challenge the stereotypes like relevant, time to grow, employable, wise, knowledgeable
- Systemic rules
Make people aged 50+ visible in mainstream media
Use positive language and images about growing older in the media
Make sure age has a voice, co-designing policy and services with older people
Recognise and address the challenges that older people are experiencing, including affordable housing and healthcare
Maintain face to face services
Embed intergenerational communication and understanding
We heard from guest speakers, Maggie Beer AM, Keith Conlon OAM and Polly Sumner Dodd, about their experiences as they age – what works, what doesn’t, what they love, what they hate, what they wish was different – and engaged in conversation about what it means to age well in 2022.