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Published: 1 October 2020

On the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is calling on all levels of government to do more to address ageism in Australian society.

AASW National President Christine Craik said the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the extent of ageism and put a focus on how prevalent it is in Australia.

“The Aged Care Royal Commission and the mismanagement of aged care facilities during COVID-19 has raised many concerns about how we see and treat older people in our communities and it is nothing short of a national shame.”

“The fact that a former Prime Minister can seek to prioritise the economy over the lives of older Australians is a disgrace and shows how ageist attitudes permeate through the highest levels of government.”

“With the spotlight now on the very fundamental and crucial issue of aged care, and the welfare of our most vulnerable community members, we have been given an opportunity to address ageism across Australia. It starts at the top with more funding for aged care, whether residential or in-home.”

“Where profit is to be made in looking after our older citizens, profit will often come before care unless there are protective measures put in place by Government. The qualifications of staff, staffing ratio's, including a clear need for social workers in these facilities, plus the enormous bureaucracy involved are all issues that need to be addressed. “

Ms Craik said that as our economy begins to recover from the bushfires and now the pandemic, we can focus our efforts on better supporting older people to live with dignity and respect.

“This will require significant resources and an emphasis on increasing the numbers and skills of the aged care workforce.”

“Older people are not disposable. They have lived, and are living, full and rich lives and deserve to be supported to continue doing so. It is a matter of human rights and as a nation we need to do better by older people.”

“Now that the extent of ageism has been exposed, we need to grasp the opportunity and do something about it because we cannot wait until the next crisis. Governments need to urgently increase funding to aged care and to increase the services that older people access.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery provides an opportunity to do this and it should be taken as a matter of priority,” she said.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers