Ageism is a serious problem affecting people of all ages and across all life stages. The World Health Organisation’s 2021 Global Report on Ageism called it “prevalent, ubiquitous and insidious” (p. IX).
In 2021 the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report ‘What’s age got to do with it?’ on ageism across the Australian lifespan. Led by Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO, the report found that ageism is widespread in society, with 90% of the national sample surveyed for the report agreeing ageism exists in Australia, 83% identifying it as a problem, and 65% saying it affects people of all ages.
Ageism can manifest in stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel), and discrimination (how we act) towards people on the basis of their age.[i] While people of all ages can and do experience ageism, it has particularly serious consequences for older people’s health and wellbeing.[ii]
The good news is that age-related stereotypes and prejudice are malleable. Research has shown that providing accurate information as a way to challenge myths and stereotypes can prompt people to reflect on and change their biased thinking and assumptions.[i]
Dr Patterson and team are examining people’s beliefs and perceptions about ageing and older people, with a particular focus on those who have high contact with older people through their work. The project will also explore the effect of awareness raising on these beliefs and perceptions.
The project aims to promote positive age beliefs among people who work closely with older adults by equipping them with the skills and awareness to recognise, question, and update age biases and assumptions.
The project is currently underway and expect to be completed by July 2023.
[ii] Chang, E.S., Kannoth, S., Levy, S., Wang, S.Y., Lee, J.E., & Levy, B.R. (2020) Global reach of ageism on older persons’ health: A systematic review. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0220857. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220857
The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers
Dr Patterson is a long-term advocate and supporter of The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers, a national arts initiative that promotes intergenerational friendships, celebrates life at 100, and fights stigma related to ageing.
Each rendition of the program involves up to 100 teenage artists and 100 centenarians, who get to know one another in a supported environment. For most artists, it is a chance to meet a centenarian for the first time; for centenarian subjects, a chance to share their story and for both generations, a memorable exchange of perspectives. The artists commit to visiting their subject four times, which gives the pair time to engage and interact with each other while mapping out sketches, taking photos, and playing the occasional game of dominos. The artists then return to their studios to complete their artwork.
Exhibitions are held to display the finished portraits, which are gifted to the centenarians afterwards as a keepsake.
For more information about the project including upcoming exhibition dates, visit https://www.embraced.com.au/.