Ageism 'key driver' of aged care system failures

Ageism at root of neglect and abuse in aged care system campaigners tell royal commission

Aged Care Royal Commission

'Limiting, stereotyped and damaging views of older people' are playing a 'profound underlying role' in contributing to neglect and abuse in aged care says EveryAGE Counts coalition.


AGEISM in aged care is leading to neglect and abuse of elderly residents the royal commission into aged care has heard.

Age discrimination campaigners have told the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety that ageism is the key driver of failures within Australia's aged care sector.

The EveryAGE Counts coalition - a group of more than 20 Australian organisations and individuals aimed at tackling ageism - has told the the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety that "limiting, stereotyped and damaging views of older people and older age generally" play a "profound underlying role" in contributing to neglect and abuse in aged care.

In its submission the EveryAGE Counts coalition - which includes the Australian Human Rights Commission, COTA Australia, National Seniors, The Benevolent Society and a diverse range of other organisations and individuals - welcomed reviews on staff-to-resident ratios and quality of food in aged care, but said it doesn't go far enough.

EveryAGE Counts co-chair Kirsty Nowlan.

EveryAGE Counts co-chair Kirsty Nowlan.

Dr Kirsty Nowlan, co-chair of the EveryAGE Counts campaign and Director of Strategy, Engagement, Research and Advocacy at The Benevolent Society said there were many examples of how "extreme risk-averse rules" and operational practice in residential aged care were constraining the lives of residents, with issues ranging from food preparation to the use of physical and chemical restraints.

"These actions are generally motivated by a desire to protect residents - for example from the risk of contaminated food, or the possibility of falling from bed or a chair - but they also result in a range of indignities and losses for them," she said.

"While the worst examples involve criminal activity and should be treated as such, it is also important to be attentive to the ways in which attitudes, power and resource constraints can create the fertile ground in which abuse and neglect become possible."

"EveryAGE Counts believes that ageism within the aged care system has contributed to the high profile examples of neglect and abuse that have led to a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety," adds Dr Nowlan.

READ MORE: EveryAGE Counts campaign seeks to end ageism

READ MORE:Maintaining the rage against ageism

"Until we address the underlying ageist attitudes, stereotypes and beliefs that are so entrenched across our society and that inevitably inform and influence our aged care sector, we're not truly fixing the problem and we will never achieve the fundamental changes and real outcomes we all want to see," said EveryAGE Counts co-chair, Robert Tickner.

"When we see older people as a big indistinguishable, separate group - 'the elderly' - and fail to see older people simply as people - as ourselves, it is much easier to apply and accept different standards and expectations," he said.

For more information about EveryAGE Counts, visit

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