Saturday, April 30, 2022



Negative stereotyping of older adults often leads to discrimination against them. 

If you are 60 and above, you are likely to have encountered instances of ageism at one time or another. Not only are older people discriminated against by banks and other financial institutions, but also at the work-place and in the job market. Indeed, older people face age discrimination on a daily basis, especially if they lack education or financial resources. Even at home, elderly parents find that no one listens to them. Their advice is often not sought for family decisions. They are head of the family only in name.

All this is mostly based on the negative perception and stereotyping of older people as frail, senile and unproductive, and a drain on the nation's welfare resources.

The above are the faces of  the New 80s - still active and certainly still able to contribute to society. What more those in their 60s and 70s?! Don't write off older adults as useless and past their productive shelf life. Just look at these three amazing seniors above - all of whom I know personally. Such seniors used to be the exceptions. No longer so now as their numbers are growing.

It is an undeniable fact that people are now living longer and healthier, thanks to advances made in medicine, science and technology. 60 is the new 40, and 80 is the new 60. They may have reached retirement age, but are still capable of contributing to society if given the opportunity to work or serve.

Retired professionals have adequate savings to see them through the next 15-20 years. They are free of the necessity to work and support themselves. For them, returning to the work force is optional. If they do so, it is mainly to keep busy and remain socially connected. 

Some of the seniors I had interviewed about job discrimination. Many have ended up on the streets or in shelter homes as they are unable to support themselves. Some have been sent to old folks home. 

For older adults in the B40 group, it is a different story. I have spoken with many of them. They tell me they are physically able and still capable of working but face discrimination due to their age. In Singapore, it is a common sight to see the elderly employed in food courts as servers or cleaners. Such jobs are available to them as young people find menial work lowly and unappealing. Retirees are capable of contributing much more to the work force if given the opportunity. 

A common sight in Singapore

POWER and MONEY speak louder than age. Older people in positions of influence and authority, with vast financial resources at their disposal can still command respect everywhere they go. These are the blessed ones. They can take care of themselves in their old age. It's the rest of the retired populace that we should make a stand for. They are the voiceless ones, the silent majority who feel disadvantaged and powerless to fight against ageism. 

But change is inevitable. The number of older persons is growing and this silver wave can't be stopped. (I am loath to use the word 'tsunami' as it gives a negative connotation to the rise in the elderly population.)

By 2035, the number of people aged 60 and above will have accounted for 15% of the total population in Malaysia. The country is heading towards ageing country status. The government is aware of what needs to be done to meet the demands and challenges of an ageing population, but implementation is painfully slow. The private sector has yet to fully acknowledge the impact this shift in demographics will have on the work force and on the economy. 

The young work force is shrinking as reflected in the declining fertility rate. Many countries in Europe e.g. Netherlands and Britain have raised the retirement age to 66. Singapore is leading the way with re-employment age up to 70. 

Indeed, if older people are given jobs, they are helping their adult children by contributing to the family needs and also by being financially independent.   

The time will come when all of us will have to wake up to the reality that global ageing is here to stay. It is in the interest of everyone to ensure that discriminatory practices against older people be removed. Any policies that uphold the rights of older people will ultimately benefit the young of today as they too will grow old one day. To take this one step further, when a country takes good care of its elderly population, everyone benefits.

The government wants to encourage active, independent and healthy ageing. So do all older people. For this to be successful, any form of discrimination against older people must be removed, and every bit of help be given to enable them to continue working and supporting themselves for as long as possible.

So kudos to the United Nations for taking a stand against ageism and making it the theme for International Day of Older Persons 2016.

For more voices against ageism, go to HelpAge International 

(Updating this article to mark Labour Day 2022 which falls on May 1 every year.)

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