Overcoming ageism

Older people are unique individuals, not one homogenous group.

Ageism is a kind of prejudice or ignorance, such as thinking of all older people as frail or forgetful. There are many myths and stereotypes about older people.

Show transcript

Well I’m president of an organisation called Older People Speak Out, which is OPSO, and basically I guess we are a lobbying organisation because we go out and find out, what people, older people and the general community need and we take the solutions back to government. One of the things we’re most interested in, is positive aging.

Common stereotypes of older people, mostly I think we are seen as being all the same. We are not all the same. Older people in fact are probably more diverse than any other age group because we’ve lived a long time, we’ve had a lot of experience as obviously we’ve reacted in a different way. So individuals are I think more diverse once they are older than they are when they are younger.

One stereotype is that we’ve got a bad memory. They have shown quite concussively in a lot of work that has been done on older people, that older can go on learning and that bad memory can happen to anybody at any time. One of the things that quite frankly I think contributes to the bad news that older people are suppose to have bad memory is the thing that I was talking about before and that is the stereotyping of older people as being useless, hopeless. Connected to that obviously has got to be in peoples mind if they are old they can’t remember, but you start forgetting very early in life let me assure you.

And the other stereotype that I must mention because I love saying this to students is please don’t think because we’re old we’ve forgotten about sex, we haven’t, older people can be just as interested in sex as younger people. In fact the fact is that if you are interested in sex when you are young you’re going to keep on doing that forever and that’s a good news story.

Yes, there is another stereotype and I’d like to dismiss that very quickly, and that is that we are all grumpy old farts. We are not, most of us are very happy people, most of us love life, most of us enjoy every moment and most of us would love to live to hundred.

Like all health professionals, nurses should approach everyone as unique, regardless of their age. It is a mistake to assume anything about anyone, particularly older people who have rich and diverse life histories, interests, and goals.

Thinking Challenge

In the video, Val talks about some of the stereotypes that she has encountered.

  • To what extent do you think that people in our community approach older people as individuals? In thinking about nurses and their work with older people, are your views the same or different?
  • What do you think "drives" stereotypes about older people?
  • What strategies are most likely to promote positive approaches to the care of older individuals, and what is the basis of your suggestions?