When we’re young, we’re desperate to grow up; as we age, we want to be young again.

Why does older age frighten us? Is it because of what we perceive old age to be? There has been lots of information in the media recently with shocking tales of poor care, waiting lists and system challenges associated with supporting people as they age. Often, older people are portrayed as frail and weak – forgotten or a burden.

Prejudice against older people – ageism – is a serious social problem. In our society, there are often negative and prejudicial attitudes towards older people based on stereotypes of ageing. Age discrimination can have strong and lasting negative effects on individuals, and is often related to the language we use which embeds ageism into our culture.

“Fight the signs of ageing”, an example we see in advertising, implies that ageing is a condition we need to battle with. Why should growing older be something we fear?

I have the privilege and joy of being able to spend time with older people every day. I love hearing their stories, their wisdom and the life experiences they bring. They are some of the strongest and most insightful people I know.

Most of us will live longer, have healthier lives than any generation before us, which presents enormous opportunities. It is common as we age to get an increased sense of freedom, contribution and flexibility. We have more time for self-investment.

As a nation, we lack insight into these positive aspects of older people’s lives, which can result in creating barriers for older people to fully participate in our community.  We have an opportunity as a society to change and focus on the joys of ageing. It starts with each of us – let’s challenge the stereotypes and celebrate ageing in all areas of society.


Mel Ottaway
Executive Manager, Services for Older People