Interview with Bich Cam Nguyen

Interview with Bich Cam Nguyen

On International Women’s Day, Marlene Krasovitsky, Director of EveryAGE Counts, talks with Bich Cam Nguyen, Senior Victorian Australian of the Year.

Marlene: Happy International Women’s Day Cam and thank you for joining EveryAGE Counts to talk about ageism and its impacts. Congratulations on being Senior Victorian Australian of the Year.

Cam: Thank you Marlene, and happy International Women’s Day to you too. It was a real morale booster for my team when I became Senior Victorian Australian of the Year. We work as a team and I made it clear to them that this is not a personal award but it is for the team.

I am pleased to talk with EveryAGE Counts as ageism is one of the central priorities I will be talking about in my term as Senior Victorian Australian of the Year.

Marlene: Why ageism Cam?

Cam: Because, as EveryAGE Counts says, it is prevalent. It has negative effects on all of us. Older people lose confidence, they can find it more difficult to find a job and to get the attention of services.

I think ageism works differently in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. In our Asian Confucian societies, and in other more traditional cultures, we respect age. Older people are considered fonts of wisdom. We treat older people with respect and we treasure their stories, and their memories. We know our time may be limited so is it is time we treasure.

Respect is the way you talk, the expressions and gestures you use. You offer to help. What the other person says, their narratives and memories are valued. We know that we may only have the benefit of those narratives or memories for a certain time and we treasure them.

I also think that men and women experience ageism differently. Women are closely associated with attractiveness, sex appeal. As women get older they can be seen as less attractive and ‘passed their use by date’. Generally, the community sees young women as beautiful, but not older women. This means many older women lose confidence.

Older women must take charge. We must be self-confident, continue to contribute, act and do something. We must use our brain to show that there is more than just beauty. We should not be passive and think ‘I am too old’, ‘there’s nothing I can do’.

Marlene: Just on that point Cam, the World Health Organisation has been doing a lot of research and have clearly established that those negative internalised views have real impacts on our psychological and physical health.

Cam you are an important role model, challenging ageism and the stereotypes about what people should and shouldn’t be dong at a certain age.

Cam: Yes, I am 80 and I certainly don’t see myself as useless. And nor do my staff. There is a great deal of pride when they tell their colleagues in other organisations how old their CEO is!

Marlene: So Cam, how would you end ageism?

Cam: For me, I have told myself that I must keep myself fit and healthy. No-one can do this for us. We need to do this for ourselves.

More broadly, ageism is pervasive and it has negative effects on both the older person and the community. If we are in it together to fight ageism we will all gain something – not only economically but also in happiness and togetherness.

Marlene: Thank you Cam.

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