The Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson AO has reminded Australians that older people, like everyone else, have the right to work, be respected and live lives of dignity free from violence, neglect and abuse.

She was speaking on the topic “Will You Still Need Me…?”, while discussing issues facing the ageing population in Australia, including the ways older people are discriminated against and avenues for combating discrimination against older people in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, at the Affinity Intercultural Foundation’s lunchtime Lecture Series held on Thursday 14 September 2017 at the Affinity offices in Sydney.

The popular lunchtime event was attended by a large contingent of guests of diverse background, ages, faiths and professions and was facilitated by Ms Gillian McFee, the former CEO and Director of UnitingCare Ageing, one of Australia’s largest health and aged care providers and currently a Health and Human Services Adviser.

Gillian McFee, the former CEO and Director of UnitingCare Ageing.

Dr Patterson claimed that a closer inspection revealed that age discrimination is real and rife in our society. It continues to be a barrier to older people reaching their full potential in the workplace, at home and in the community.

“My message to you is that barring a premature death, each and every one of you is going to get older. The example and culture you set now is what you will inherit one day,” she concluded.

Dr Patterson was appointed as the Age Discrimination Commissioner on 29 July 2016 coming into this role with strong involvement in issues affecting older people.  She left school at 15, and then managing a small business, she returned to school and gained a BA (Hons) at the University of Sydney and a PhD in Psychology and a Dip Ed from Monash University.

Dr Kay Patterson AO. Age Discrimination Commissioner.

She has pointed out the ageing profile of Australians where baby boomers aged 65 and over now made up around 15% of the Australian population. Moreover, as a result of the high levels of post-war immigration, almost 40% of all migrants from non-English speaking countries were now aged 50 years and over.

With rising life expectancies, Australian baby boomers can now expect to live well into their 80s and beyond. That’s on average an extra 25 years more than their parents and grandparents’ generation.

These added years of life come with many opportunities but also challenges of age discrimination.

From left: Mr Mehmet Saral, Dr Kay Patterson and Mr Ahmet Polat

Factors such as a ‘strange’ surname, heavy accent, qualifications that are not recognised in Australia, and the fact that a person is nearing retirement age could all contribute to a person’s negative treatment in employment contexts.

Dr Patterson said that older people from CALD backgrounds can also be more vulnerable to workplace discrimination because they may not be aware of their rights under Australian laws. CALD older people may also be susceptible to abuse due to language barriers, social isolation and increased dependence.

One of the recommendations from the report titled, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response, is for the development of a National Plan to combat elder abuse via a long-term integrated approach.

CALD groups must also ensure that the concerns of their communities are represented in the National Plan and future services and protections.