We need to properly prepare for our aging population

THIS is the experience of a particular 81-year-old woman.

Though circumstances may differ, other women will identify with the feeling of vulnerability that resulted from the following incident.

A recent weekend saw this woman celebrating the engagement of her grandson.

In conversation with family, she retold the story of her disappointment at not having a new dress.

This woman had gone to her local shopping centre to browse, with the purpose of finding a dress that would signify the importance of this occasion.

After looking in the window of a couple of stores, she ventured into a chain store, known to cater for mature-aged women.

When approached by a shop assistant, the woman asked if she could be shown a dress suitable for her to wear to an engagement party.

The shop assistant responded that they only had clothes for "youngies".

The woman left feeling belittled and near to tears. This incident rang alarm bells for me.

It's well known that, due to people living longer, society will be comprised of a growing number of older citizens.

By 2050, in Australia 25% of the population will be over 65, in contrast to the present 14%, according to the Australian Institute of Actuaries.

The Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan stated that despite the Federal Government's vision for a society where "all Australians feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully, public policies, employment practices and community values are yet to reflect this".

Ms Ryan suggested that attitudes and values are "stuck back in the early 20th century".

She said that this reflected our "unwillingness to recognise the realities of growing old, to recognise the inevitability of it and acknowledge the rights of older people".

Ferdous Begum, from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, commented that discrimination could be experienced by both men and women, however because women were living longer, there tended to be more older women living on their own.

Begum suggests that this factor can lead to vulnerability in the areas of their physical, financial and emotional needs.

Research, conferences and committees are convened to find the solution to issues such as this.

Perhaps, while waiting for the solution, we can start by using old-fashioned respect and good manners.


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