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Ageism affects everyone in 2021: report

Ageism remains the most accepted form of prejudice in the country, with 90 per cent of Australians agreeing that it is widespread, according to a new report.

Released by the Australian Human Rights Commission, What’s Age Got to Do With It? surveyed 2440 younger adults, middle-aged and older Australians. 

It found that over half of the participants had experienced ageism in the past five years.

“Ageism is arguably the least understood form of discriminatory prejudice, with evidence suggesting it is more pervasive and socially accepted than sexism or racism,” Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said. 

The research conducted 11 focus groups to identify the different stereotypes, attitudes and beliefs held by each age group, to dissect how ageism affects people across lifespans. 

For people aged 18-24, experiences of ageism came in the form of being condescended to and ignored in the workplace.

People aged between 40 and 61 were perceived as being “in the prime of their lives”, however, they were the most likely to be turned down for a job or position than younger people.

Older adults were viewed as passive, "nice" onlookers who experienced prejudice through assumptions that they needed assistance.

Over half of the participants agreed that joking about age was more acceptable than joking about race or gender. 

Despite identifying negative attitudes, the survey challenged notions of an intergenerational divide. 

Seventy per cent disagreed that the nation’s older generation had left the world in a worse state than it was before, with fewer than 20 per cent agreeing that any age group was a burden on society.

In her report, Dr Patterson said that inaccurate age-based stereotypes are rampant and urged people to link them to discriminatory behaviours. 

“I call on everyone to think about ageism and how it affects you and those close to you,” Dr Patterson said.

“Every Australian must do what they can to challenge ageist attitudes in themselves and others, so together we can reduce ageism for Australians of all ages. Age is not the problem. Ageism is.”

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