Respect your elders, says Flinders Professor

Mary LuszczPolicy and programs aside, dispelling the myths about older people is key to creating an age-friendly state, says Flinders University Psychologist and Gerontologist Professor Mary Luszcz (pictured).

According to Professor Luszcz, society often perceives anyone over the age of 65 to be frail, incapable and unhappy in their lives when research shows “that’s certainly not the case”.

“Older people don’t get enough recognition for what they’re capable of because the stereotype is that once you reach 65 or 70 you’re less competent and can’t learn new things but there’s actually a great deal of diversity in their skills and abilities,” Professor Luszcz said.

“It’s also thought that older people don’t have any hopes or goals in life when in fact they place a great deal of importance on things like their health, wellbeing and children’s future so we must dispel these myths and focus on the positive aspects of ageing – not just the losses but the gains.”

Professor Luszcz, who is also Director of the Flinders Centre for Ageing Studies, will share her research and knowledge on ageing at an upcoming forum organised by the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity’s Southgate Policy Club.

To be held on October 31 at the University’s city campus, the forum will debate and answer audience questions on how SA can become more age-friendly from the perspective of five expert panellists including Adelaide’s 2011-2012 Thinker in Residence Dr Alexandre Kalache.

Besides dispelling the common myths surrounding ageing, Professor Luszcz said she hopes to discuss some of the other factors that help people age well, such as maintaining independence and self-esteem, being included in the community and keeping physically active.

While the state government and local councils are progressively incorporating ageing into their strategic plans for the future, Professor Luszcz said more could be done to address ageing among the state’s disabled and Indigenous residents, as well as those living in rural and remote areas.

“SA is the oldest mainland state in terms of its population so ageing is a major issue here and although the notion of an age-friendly state is being worked towards through improvements to public transport and the like, there’s still a general lack of respect for older people out there.

“What we really need to do is view ageing as a process – we’d never lump infants and 30-year-olds in one group so we shouldn’t put 60 to 100-year-olds into the one category either because they’re not all alike and their needs vary depending on personal characteristics.”

The Southgate Policy Club forum on ageing will be held at Flinders University Victoria Square, 182 Victoria Square (former Reserve Bank building), on October 31 from 5pm to 6.45pm. For more details go to Flinders University’s events guide.

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