A cultural shift on ageing is overdue - it's a gift and an opportunity

Ageism is biting harder than ever in the West, lazy language and attitudes are reinforcing outdated practises and thinking about the presentation and capabilities of people over 50. The negativity across the generations is affecting the health and wellbeing of many in midllife. So found a health education charity in the UK, the Royal Society for Public Health, when it studied the causes and consequences of age discrimination.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, tells Susan Flory ageism is crushing self-esteem, limiting opportunities and creating a cascade of problems throughout society.

Hear what when:

01.00 Kids as young as six can’t help but absorb society’s negative messaging around ageing

03.15 Need to rebalance approach because negative bias does not reflect reality that many over 60s happiest people around

“But we don’t focus on that, we talk about how the tide’s turning and how many older people there are going to be, this tsunami of need.”

04.20 Language around ageing needs to change, must adopt positive approaches of other cultures

07.49 Social policy challenge of dealing with social isolation

09.08 Need to put services such as nurseries, youth clubs and care homes under one roof

11.50 Need to notice and banish lazy, negative language around ageing

“The problem with that, often, is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy so remember that all of us have these ageist attitudes.. so when we become older.. we’ve absorbed this all our lives and think, well, I probably can’t do that because I’m over 60 or 70 or 80.”

13.00 Advertising onslaught post-50 reinforces ageism, fails to acknowledge obvious differences over the decades; no segmentation of midlife through elderly demographic

15.15 Lack of coordinated, coherent action against ageism, the last -ism largely ignored as global campaigns against racism and sexism reap change

15.53 Need for more “normal” role models, aside from superstar athletes and screen stars such as Helen Mirren

18.05 Misperceptions about comparative wealth of post-50s feeding resentment between generations

19.25 Blatant age discrimination around work for midlifers who are healthy, not ready to stop and need income, but forced out of jobs

21.41 Need for more flexible working policies, lifelong learning

22.40 Structural impediments to retraining and reinvention when bills need paying

“The structure and policies in society never keep up with what’s happening.”

25.50 Has observed but not personally experienced ageism

26.50 Dementia has displaced cancer as disease we most fear

28.37 RSPH lifestyle advice for positive ageing, need to banish term “anti-ageing”

“Young people in our surveys told us they didn’t expect older people to look good but you and I both know loads of people who are older look fabulous.”


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Hosted + produced by Susan Flory with technical help from Adam@Bespoken Podcasting, Cape Town

Music: “Beautiful Day” by Sahin Koc



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