Ageing,Ageism and Discrimination

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Lyn RYAN , Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University, Australia, North Ryde, NSW, Australia
In Western society our populations are ageing, and even developing nations are showing increases in elderly populations. This is due to declining fertility, advances in medical science leading to greater longevity, immigration rates not keeping up with ageing, and also the Baby Boomer generation began to turn 65 in 2011. Older age is an inevitable part of life but some people use stereotypes of older people to discriminate against them due to their biological age.  People hold views about ageing people which are not consistent with their views about other people and this forms the basis of prejudice, discrimination and ageism. While respect for elderly people has been a prominent part of Asian cultures which upheld Confucian principles, respect for the elderly has not been given such a prominent place in the history of Western society or its discourse.  Issues around egregious abuse, such as violence and financial abuse have been commanding the attention of most social science researchers studying the maltreatment of older persons since the late 1970s. The more subtle, everyday experiences of disrespect, which arguably is a precursor to more notorious forms of abusive and violent behaviour; or respect which, arguably, can prevent such abuse from occurring, are less researched.  Therefore, respect for elders is defined and disrespect versus respect, ageism, personhood and the quality of life of elderly people are all discussed. 

Society categorises older people into socially constructed age groups.  It is important to recognise that while age has a biological meaning, income, work and retirement construct groups and meanings about age that may reflect negatively on older people and, therefore, lead to experiences of disrespect amongst our older population.