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We speak to two leaders of the Ageing Revolution
There are plenty of great things to look forward to about getting older, but there are also some that will be challenging – especially the perceptions younger people hold. Two people working to change those perceptions are Simon Lowe and Leonie Sanderson, the founders of The Ageing Revolution. The organisation, which is still in its infancy but already doing big things, aims to empower older Australians by targeting businesses and the way they employ, cater to, and generally interact with those in their later years.
How are you guys working to help change perceptions about what it is to age?
"Stories and personal experience are some of the most powerful change agents we have at our disposal. The first thing we did as a start-up was get out of our comfort zone and go and talk to people. We took a 13,000 km road trip across Australia, from capital cities, to regional towns to rural and remote communities. We talked to everyone we could about ageing and what it’s like.
Changing perceptions and attitudes doesn’t happen overnight. We’re committed to the long-term overhaul of the way people think about ageing because we also know that it’s central to changing the entire system."
How are the four pillars you work with – health, life-long learning, participation and security – so important to active ageing?
"The four pillars were developed by the World Health Organisation and cover off the key components for a good older life and are a useful framework for looking at ageing. When we spoke to people who felt they were ageing well, their needs under the four pillars were generally met – either by virtue of their own motivation or because of other systems around them."
How did the idea for your story-gathering road trip come about?
"We both have a lot of respect for the Aboriginal culture of oral storytelling and the passing down of knowledge and wisdom. We also felt that often older people in rural and regional areas were overlooked, even more than those in urban centres."
What was the biggest thing you took from speaking with older Australians?
"That successful ageing is different for everyone, but there are some basic needs that people have that cut across nearly all communities. Access to relevant healthcare, supportive social networks and the ability to have control and choice over your own future are really essential."
Often we talk about younger people having a negative perception of older Australians, but in your work you also talk about older people not giving themselves enough credit. Why do you think this is?
"Is it any wonder that ageism is internalised? There are ageist tropes all around us from birthday cards to beauty products to fashion – you’d be hard pressed to not consider old age as a horrible and distasteful thing!
It means we have to come at ageism from more than one angle – it’s not just about changing the system but affecting individuals, young and old, as well!
We love the work of Ashton Applewhite, who says, ‘ageism is prejudice against your future self’, and it really is. If we continue to hold these negative views, we’re not only discriminating against ourselves as older people but we’re contributing to continuing the system in its current state."
What are the most important skills, outlooks and strategies for older Australians to arm themselves with, so they can make the most of their later years?
"To remain open-minded, to view ageing optimistically and to make sure they stay active and involved in their community whatever and wherever they may be. Planning your finances as far in advance as possible is also really important, but we acknowledge that for some people that is not always simple.
We want to promote ageing from a strengths-based perspective, not one of negativity, and will continue to strive to do this.
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