Ageism is an everyday challenge

29Sep 2016
The Guardian
Ageism is an everyday challenge

THE International Day of Older Persons is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the issues and challenges of ageing in today’s world.

The theme for 2016, ‘Take a Stand Against Ageism,’ challenges everyone to consider ageism – the negative attitudes and discrimination based on age - and the detrimental impact it has on older people.

The World Health Assembly resolution related to the WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health, adopted in May 2016, calls on the director-general to develop, in cooperation with other partners, a global campaign to combat ageism and achieve the ultimate goal of enhancing the day-to-day experience of older people and to optimise policy responses.

Ageism is stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. Ageism is widespread and an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults.

This year, we challenge everyone to identify and question these internalised ageist attitudes, and to understand the serious impact that these attitudes have.

For older people, ageism is an everyday challenge. Overlooked for employment, restricted from social services and stereotyped in the media, ageism marginalises and excludes older people in their communities.

Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalised” of any prejudice, and is not widely countered – like racism or sexism. It exists when the media portrays all old people as “frail” and “dependent”.

It influences (subconsciously or actively) the policy maker to opt for cost containment in preference to making appropriate adaptations and investment in infrastructure and services for ageing societies.

These attitudes, pervasive yet invisible, lead to the marginalisation of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and well-being.

Older people who feel they are a burden may also perceive their lives to be less valuable, putting them at risk of depression and social isolation. Research shows that older adults with negative attitudes about ageing may live 7.5 years less than those with positive attitudes.

Since our independence in 1961, the need to have a national policy to guide service provision to the elderly has increasingly been felt. It has become apparent that strategies were needed to guarantee effective service delivery.

During the celebrations of the International year of older people (1999), the government committed itself to putting into place the national ageing policy. This commitment is a clear demonstration of government resolve to put ageing issues into the development agenda of the nation.

We are aware that our older people face a number of problems which include poverty, inadequate health services and pension and lack of participation in important decisions affecting national development.

The weakening of traditional ties has greatly affected the lives of the majority of older people. Despite this fact we recognise that older people are a new power for national development. In Africa, Tanzania is the second country after Mauritius to have a policy on ageing.

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