There has been debate in our Parliament recently about sexist attitudes. It’s well over 100 years since the suffragette’s made their protests about the way women were treated by chaining themselves to railings and going to prison for what they believed in, yet we are still fighting for equality between men and women. I hope that the struggle to overcome ‘ageism’ in which older people are not regarded as equals to the rest of the community won’t take as long, particularly as many of us don’t have the energy to chain ourselves to railings! Hopefully this new, fast method of communicating will speed up getting the message across, particularly as it enables us to connect with each other across the world. It will be achieved much more easily if we can show that we are in agreement that we don’t want to be treated as second class citizens and that we have a lot to offer the world. Betty Friedan’s book ‘The Fountain of Age’, a best seller, was published almost two decades ago but I don’t see much sign of change, at least here in Australia.

The problem with all groups treated as second class citizens such as through sexism and racism as well as ageism, is that the decision makers haven’t yet learned that to achieve results you need to consult with the group you want to elevate. Powerful women often speak out but it’s frequently hard to identify the bias we are fighting as it has been our lot for so long. Similarly a recent government report on older people in the workforce was developed by a group of people in their early 60’s who were hardly representative of older people. As a result in spite of the fact that the report cost a lot of money there were big holes in it and little will change. I think the problem for us is it’s easier just to accept things as they are, rather than struggling to bring about change.

There are people who want to listen to us. I had a paper accepted at a conference in Dubbo earlier this year on what we need to be able to age successfully. As a result I was invited to prevent the paper at their State conference in Sydney and then again at an annual dinner in a country town in N.S.W. later this month. The exciting thing is that these people are working with older people in retirement villages and other accommodation, in other words at the coal face. (I wonder what the equivalent expression is for the work they do?).

I guess the first thing we need to do is identify the problem areas we want to fight to change. This is where your comments and suggestions are so important.