The next step to confirm your commitment to addressing ageism in Australia is to take the pledge.
"I stand for a world without ageism where all people of all ages are valued and respected and their contributions are acknowledged. I commit to speak out and take action to ensure older people can participate on equal terms with others in all aspects of life."
You can do this by adding your details to the pledge for on this page.
Below is some further information about the quiz and your answers. You can scroll through each of the questions to see which answers scored high and low in terms of being ageist – and a little bit of information about why.
Workplace – your views about older people in the workplace
A. Older people have an obligation to retire and make way for younger people
B. Age is irrelevant – it’s about whether or not you can do the job
C. Older workers tend to be less effective and have more accidents at work
The most ageist answer is A. But C also reflects some serious misconceptions about older workers.
While many people want to retire from the workforce – at a range of ages - many others want to keep working as long as they choose to and are able to contribute. For many there is no choice – they have to keep working in order to pay rent, mortgage and other costs.
If you think about it, age isn’t a very reliable indicator of how effective someone is in the workplace. It’s really about the individual person, not an age group. People can be over-achievers, simply effective and poor performers at any age and stage. And of course it depends on the type of job. You can’t assume anything based on age.
And in terms of accidents at work, think again. In Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2018, workers aged 45-64 experienced less work-related injuries than workers in younger age groups and more of them experienced no work-related injury or illness at all.
If you hear a friend describe his neighbour as an ‘old dear’, what do you think?
A. It is harmless enough and often said affectionately
B. I can see it is a bit patronising but it is not my business to get involved
C. It is belittling and unacceptable and I should call him out on it
The most ageist answer is A. If someone refers to another person as an ‘old dear’ or a ‘sweet old thing’, they are saying that they judge the person to conform to one of the common stereotypes of older people (especially older women) as being nice, kind, perhaps a bit slow and forgetful and not to be taken as seriously as other people. We are all familiar with this stereotype (and its opposite partner – the grumpy old man or crotchety old woman). Terms like this are belittling and disempowering for the older person. Nobody at any age should be judged so superficially. People are a hugely diverse bunch at every age and that diversity never changes. Think about yourself – would you like people to refer to you in this way? Probably not.
Our feelings about getting older
When we have positive feelings about our own ageing, which is true?
A. We are likely to live an average of 7.5 years longer
B. It’s a sign we are losing our grip on reality
C. Having positive feelings has no effect on our risk of dementia
The most ageist answer is B. On the contrary to this response, people who are positive about getting older, who think about their lives realistically as a journey through all the different ages actually do have greater life expectancy and better quality of life for those years. Studies also show that people are generally happiest in their lives in their childhood and then again in later life. It’s referred to as the ‘U-curve of happiness’. Again, if you think about it realistically for a moment, there is no universally perfect age. There are good and bad elements at every stage and they can be very different for different people.
It’s true that our risk of developing dementia – or not – isn’t connected to the way we feel about growing older but neither is our risk of developing cancer or heart disease. The best evidence to avoiding dementia is the same evidence for avoiding heart disease. Diet and exercise – for the body and the brain!
Which best describes how you think about dementia?
A. Sad as it is, dementia is a normal part of ageing
B. Dementia is a disease that only affects a small proportion of older people
C. The vast majority of older people will get dementia before they die
Answer C is the most ageist answer and belies an assumption that dementia will affect most, if not every person in late life. Even if you answered A, you have the wrong assumption about dementia. While it is true that the overall risk of developing dementia increases with age, it still only affects a relatively small proportion of the population. It is NOT a normal part of ageing. The majority of older people do not develop dementia. It is normal to be forgetful sometimes – it happens at any age, as we all know. But losing your car keys in the house when you’re 72 does not mean you have dementia!
If you need to explain something about technology to an older person…
A. Always make sure you talk slowly and loudly at all times
B. Explain it in the same way you would to anyone – don’t make assumptions
C. Don’t waste your breath – avoid conversations about technology at all costs
The most ageist answer is C – it suggests the belief that all older people not only do not understand new technology, but they are also incapable of learning how to use it. The reality is that people of all ages have different levels of comfort using different technology. Many people in their 70’s 80’s and 90’s have embraced new technology just as enthusiastically as younger people who have never known anything different. But as with anything in life, most people can learn and want to learn new skills – especially if they understand how useful those skills can be. You can’t assume any level of technological skill, based purely on a person’s age so it always pays to ask first to avoid potential embarrassment. And target the help you offer to the actual needs of the person. Remember, most people want to keep learning new skills throughout life. And we should never make anyone – at any age – feel belittled or inadequate for not being proficient in something they are trying to learn.
What do you feel when you see an ad for an anti-ageing product?
A. Envy – I wish I still had youthful skin like the face on the left.
B. Ugly – it reminds me how ugly wrinkles are and how many I’ve got
C. Angry – it’s wrong. Older people shouldn’t be made to feel bad about how they look.
The most ageist answer is B. Who says skin lines are ugly? We are physiological beings and our bodies change and evolve from the day we are born to the day we die. Yet our society is youth-obsessed. Our culture remorselessly reinforces the message that older people are less important, less attractive, less competent, to the point where entire industries are making fortunes from us attempting to obliterate the visible signs of our age. We tell people that they look younger than their age, and it is meant as a compliment – but it just underlines that we think that getting older is bad in itself.
If we valued people – including their appearance and abilities – at every age, we wouldn’t mind looking the age we are; in fact we would embrace it and enjoy it for everything it has to offer. And we could be a lot happier.
When a son accompanies his mother to the doctor, who should the doctor talk to?
A. The son
B. The mother
C. The doctor should ask the son if he minds her talking to the mother
The most ageist answer is of course, A but C is just as bad. The doctor should always address the patient, even if the patient needs assistance with mobility or has difficulty communicating. The doctor should never make assumptions and neither should we. If the doctor needs to speak with the son, they should ask the mother if she minds.
An older driver has had a minor car accident. What are you likely to think?
A. Poor old geezer – he has probably had a senior’s moment on his way to lawn bowls
B. That’s unusual – older drivers generally have fewer accidents than younger drivers
C. Ban old drivers – it’s more evidence older drivers shouldn’t be on the road.
The most ageist answer is C but A is a very close second. The idea that drivers over a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to drive indicates a deep disregard for older people that is based on prejudice against older people rather than on evidence. In fact older drivers generally have fewer accidents than younger drivers, although older drivers are more likely to die in an accident than younger drivers. If you answered C, you also clearly have strong ageist stereotypes in mind about older people being hopeless but cute and deserving of pity. It might be meant kindly but in fact it devalues and disrespects older people.
Imagine you are approaching your 80th birthday – what will you do?
A. Throw a huge party to celebrate reaching this great milestone
B. Have a few friends over on the condition that no one mentions my age
C. Ignore the whole thing because I hate the thought of getting older.
If you answered B or C, you might need to rethink your attitude to getting older. Isn’t it time we stopped apologising for or hiding our age? Living longer and reaching a big age milestone is an enormous achievement and it should be celebrated. Happy birthday! What are your plans for next year?
Which best describes how you feel about older people and sex?
A. Most older people have little or no interest in sex
B. Sex drive doesn’t diminish with age – you can have an active sex life well into your 90s
C. Na na na na na na
Like any other aspect of life – the enjoyment of good food, a great holiday, spending time with friends - our needs for sex and intimacy don’t evaporate after a certain age.
Our interest can change and evolve over time right across the lifecourse. Ask anyone who has young children! If you think about your current views about sex and intimacy, ask yourself if you think they are likely to change once you reach a certain age. That’s pretty much how it is for everyone.