Comm. Ryan says the greater community needs to change its negative attitude towards older Australians.
Comm. Ryan says the greater community needs to change its negative attitude towards older Australians. Jacob Wackerhausen / Getty Images

Age discrimination a prevalent problem in Australian society

MORE than 70% of people feel that age discrimination is common in Australia, a problem that must be addressed, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan said on Friday.

The Australian Human Rights Commission released an extensive report on perceptions of age in the workplace and media around the country.

It found, among other things, 35% of those over 55 have experienced age discrimination, causing many older people to feel isolated, lonely, worthless and angry.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it found those aged 18 to 34 were the least concerned about age discrimination, believing it was not as important as other types of discrimination, despite it affecting everyone.

"This research quantifies some of the stereotypical beliefs people hold about older people that lead to discriminatory attitudes and behaviours," Commissioner Ryan said.

"These attitudes and behaviours act as barriers that prevent many older people from reaching their full potential in workplaces and in the community."

Comm. Ryan said a key conclusion of the report was that media and advertising was influencing negative perceptions of older Australians.

"Crucially, it also reveals that these sorts of stereotypes and invisibility have influenced perceptions in the younger generations, created negative employer attitudes and impacted negatively on the way older people view themselves," she said.

The report comes after recent findings which showed a 5% rise in the employment of Australians aged over 50 would result in a $48 billion positive impact on the national economy every year.

Comm. Ryan said with the expected "radical change" in the age profile of Australia, shifting such negative attitudes was imperative.

"It is interesting that this research highlights so clearly the constructive role that our media and advertising industries can play," she said.

"It is vital we recognize that the growth in the number of older Australians provides significant and very real economic and social benefits and opportunities."

Comm. Ryan said she hoped the report would encourage a more constructive collaboration between the media, advertising and corporate Australia to present older Australians in a more accurate light.