An intergenerational dialogue: 3 perspectives on ageism and inclusion in Australia

June 4, 2020 | People at Mirus Australia

At Mirus Australia, we value individual experiences. The experiences of our staff, partners and our clients.

We are committed to #makingagedcarebetter, and one of the ways we achieve this goal is by listening and sharing the stories of individuals.

Last year, we were lucky enough to have special guests – Coral and Gordon in our office to talk about their experiences with dementia and ageism in Australia. During this conversation, the concept of intergenerational dialogue emerged.

Soon after this conversation and while speaking to to Zoe (our amazing intern, and who happens to be the granddaughter to Coral and Gordon) about the kinds of conversations we both have with our grandparents and the experiences we have had with ageism.

She offered a very different perspective on this issue to her grandmother, and it got me thinking, “how different are the experiences between generations with issues surrounding ageing?” 

Three (3) amazing women agreed to help me answer this question. I was fortunate enough to hear from Coral again, her daughter Melissa, and granddaughter Zoe. Keep reading to find out what three (3) women, from three (3) generations, with three (3) unique perspectives, from one (1) family, had to say about ageism and inclusion in Australia. 

Do you think there is a divide within today’s society regarding age, and do you think older individuals are treated differently? 

Coral: Yes they are treated differently. Having looked after my own parents, and seeing my daughter look after me, I can say that things have changed regarding how busy life is now. Us older people can be considered a burden, not specifically in my family, but in society. For example, people I know who are in nursing homes can feel patronised or feel like their identities are being lost. 

Melissa: Older people are treated better and worse. Younger people tend not to be respectful of older generations, which is different to when I grew up. I worry that elderly people don’t get the attention they deserve because their time is perceived to be running out and hence their health may seem less important than younger peoples. Some benefits they get though is cheaper transport, senior parking spots, more facilities for the elderly with disabilities, and for those lucky enough to receive it, aged care pension. 

Zoe: There is a bit of a divide that I think is due to different generational perspectives. The older generation can be stubborn to adapt to modern things such as technology, yet at the same time younger people may not be very patient with their transition.  

What have been your personal experiences with ageism, exclusion and stigma surrounding ageing? 

C: The older I get, the more aware I am of how invisible and patronised older people can feel. A recent example I can think of is the treatment of older people in hospitals. There is a lack of urgency surrounding their procedures. And I have heard of seemingly unnecessary procedures being conducted on older people, where they may not be aware of what is happening to them or can’t speak up about it.  

M: One example of stigma that come to mind happened recently, when a doctor asked to speak to me privately about my father. The doctor realised that my father had dementia and felt that the conversation was better had away from him. The conversation wasn’t anything major and my dad should have been a part of it. However, due to the stigma that surrounds dementia, he was excluded.  

Z: My experiences only really come from the older people I am around – my grandparents – and I don’t think they are particularly excluded. My family includes them in a lot and helps them adapt to changes in the world. But I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have a family like mine. 

What do you think of the public conversation or standpoint on ageism and inclusion in Australia? 

C: There isn’t enough focus on it. A lot of the people involved in the conversation are younger and don’t know the experiences of older generations, and older people feel like they can’t speak up or they are seen as not having a lot to contribute. An in today’s world of Youtube and Instragram, there is always a more ‘interesting’ story to look at instead of hearing from elderly people. 

M: I think that we are all people, and one day we will be in [the older generation’s] shoes. It’s unavoidable.  

Z: I think that the media can exaggerate issues like this sometimes. Ageism definitely exists, but I personal don’t feel it is as dramatic as it’s sometimes made out to be. But that’s just from my experience.  

How do you think we can improve upon intergenerational relationships and inspire more open conversations with one another? 

C: Older people need to be included in Government discussions about care facilities, and attention needs to be turned to those without advocates or support persons as they are the most vulnerable. School and church programs encouraging kids to visit elderly people are important in increasing visibility and understanding, especially now with Corona virus as we are seen as fragile, which is not necessarily the case. Half an hour, or even 10 minutes, spent interacting with people makes them feel seen!  

M: Communicate and spend time with the ageing. If you give them a chance, you’ll hear some interesting stories and learn some valuable life lessons. 

Z: Issues such as exclusion and respect effect nearly everyone to some extent, so talk more openly about these topics and do your own part to make people feel comfortable. For example, talking to your own grandparents or their friends, helping them stay in contact with the world and breakdown communication barriers in your own immediate circle. If everyone did that, there would be more general understanding.    

Thank you to Coral, Melissa and Zoe for generously sharing their opinions and experiences with us. We hope this post inspires you to go out and have a conversation with someone of a different generation to you. Everybody has a story to share, and if you take the time to listen, we can guarantee you will learn something.  

An interview by Hannah who is currently completing an Honours in Psychology and she is also an intern at Mirus Australia You can connect with Hannah on LinkedIn.