Comical stereotypes reinforce ageism, says report

Stereotypes of older people as sick and vulnerable, heroically young and active or just comically grumpy like TV’s Victor Meldrew are "major barriers" preventing their needs from being heard or acted upon, a leading lobby group has said.

According to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), professional attitudes that treat old age as if it were ‘an illness for which there is no cure’ are no less damaging.

Challenging service planners and providers to do better in future, the foundation said that older people must be involved in planning the policies and services that affect them in order to make an enduring contribution to improving the quality of life in old age.

Based on a four-year research programme overseen by a steering group of older people, the report was launched today at a conference at the Royal Society in London addressed by Malcolm Wicks MP, the Pensions Minister.

Older people are fully aware of the limitations of growing older, but they also acknowledge gains. They have a lifetime of experience to draw upon and they often have internal resources that need to be recognised, rather than ignored. The reality of old age is a constant negotiation between losses and gains which few service providers seem to have taken fully on board," Alex O’Neil, manager of the JRF Older People’s Programme, said.

Peter Fletcher, an independent consultant at Peter Fletcher Associates and secretary of the task group, said: “In other countries in Europe, older people are valued and celebrated as an asset to society. In England, age discrimination is still built into the fabric of our society. Our task group report identifies the building blocks that can be used to construct a new approach that underpins the rights of older people as citizens, values the contributions they can make and gives them greater choice and control over their lives and decision making.”


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