Ageism is bad for your health

An older woman's pair of hands. A common ageist and patronising image of an older person.
A common ageist image. Why not her face?

We have to stop ageism at the older end of the age spectrum. Why? Because it’s killing us. The World Health Organization, says older people who hold negative views about their own ageing will live 7.5 years less than people with positive attitudes. So where do these negative views come from? Everywhere it seems. Ageism is bad for your health because ageing is framed as a negative experience. 

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald reports on this phenomenon. Ageist comments, such as “silly old duck” or “they are useless with technology” are socially accepted. Calling someone an “old dear” is not a term of endearment. Language matters because it is an expression of how we think. Ageism is yet to be properly recognised as damaging, unlike racism and sexism.  But we must be careful with the term ageism.

Ageism is always referred to as an older age issue. However, it is not. Anyone of any age can be subject to ageism. In Europe, the only region with data on all age groups, younger people report more age discrimination than other age groups. Philip Taylor has more to say on this in his UD2021 presentation. 

Ageism affects everyone. Children are brought up in a culture of age stereotypes that guide their behaviours towards people of different ages. They also learn how to perceive themselves at various stages of life. 

The WHO says that ageism is everywhere – in our institutions and relationships to ourselves. For example:

    • Policies that support healthcare rationing by age,
    • Practices that limit younger people’s opportunities to contribute to decision-making in the workplace
    • Patronising behaviour used between older and younger people
    • Self-limiting behaviour based on our own ideas of what a certain age can or cannot do. 

Is ageism really a problem?

This section from the WHO website on ageism says it is:

Two women sit on a bird nest swing depicting a positive image of older people.
Two older women on a bird nest swing. A more positive image.

Ageism can change how we view ourselves, erode solidarity between generations, devalue or limit our ability to benefit from what younger and older populations can contribute. It can impact our health, longevity and well-being while also having far-reaching economic consequences. Ageism is associated with earlier death (by 7.5 years), poorer physical and mental health, and slower recovery from disability in older age.

Ageism also increases risky health behaviors, such as eating an unhealthy diet, drinking excessively or smoking, and reduces our quality of life. In the United States, one in every seven dollars spent on health care every year for the eight most expensive conditions was due to ageism (US$ 63 billion in total).

Other posts on ageing and ageism include Are you Ageist? Probably. and Market segmentation by age – does it work?  

 

Diversity and Inclusion: Start Here

A hand-drawn graphic with faces of bright colours with big eyes. They are grouped in a bunch.The Commons Social Change Library is about social change and driving social movements in Australia. From time to time they produce easy to follow resources for members and followers. The latest is a guide to diversity and inclusion. While the context is about driving social change, most of the information is applicable in any situation. 

The Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here guide introduces key concepts and a raft of links to other resources. The key point is that inclusion is a social change movement and we can all do our part by including marginalised people in our ranks. That’s whether it’s the workforce, our local sporting team or our social change campaigns.

Carly Findlay is a disability activist who reminds us that disability is part of diversity. Carly’s video explains her experience. Judy Heumann’s TED talk is also worth a look. 

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk, The urgency of intersectionality is about race and gender bias. 

Kaytee Ray-Riek discusses marginalisation across the spectrum and ways of building trust and encouraging inclusive practice.  

Organisers of social justice events sometimes forget the basics of inclusion. Make your social justice event accessible spells out how to do it. 

Before people can get to an event they usually need information. The Internet is usually the first stop. So it’s important to Improve your website accessibility

There are many more resources on this website – you don’t need to be a campaigner to benefit from them. 

Brightly coloured books on a bookshelf with titles that represent social change.The Commons Social Change Library is a not for profit organisation committed to educating for community action. They collect, curate and distribute the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe.

There are more posts on diversity and inclusion on this website. For example, Diversity and Inclusion or Belonging and Dignity? 

Accessibility with help from Standards

The ISO Guide 71 eleven goals of accessibility.
Slide showing the 11 accessibility goals.

Who wants to refer to the instruction manual if they can avoid it?  In the same way, standards documents get overlooked unless it’s mandatory to comply. But there is one standards document that is worth looking at. It can help us progress accessibility and universal design. On day two of UD2021 Conference, Emily Steel explained how the international accessibility standard works. 

Emily Steel pointing to the 11 Goals of the Guide on the presentation slide.
Emily Steel with the 11 Goals of the Guide.

The international standard has done all the thinking for us. The document guides standards committees as they write and update standards for their specific industry or profession. It is also useful for any committee developing guides or standards for accessibility and universal design. So, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. 

The Guide’s use of the the term “accessibility” relates closely to universal design. “The extent to which products, systems, services, environments and facilities can be used by people from a population with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities to achieve a specified goal in a specified context of use”. 

The Guide has two main parts. The first describes user needs and 11 accessibility goals. These are similar to the 8 Goals of Universal Design. The second describes human characteristics and abilities, and design considerations. 

Guide 71 was adapted by the European standards authority and is titled, CEN-CENLEC Guide 6. It is basically the same information. You can see a previous post about this document. 

There is also an Accessibility Masterlist by Gregg Vanderheiden. It’s a collaborative resource for understanding access features in digital applications. Also worth a look.

All standards should ensure they meet the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Guide 71 shows how to do this.

 

Disability inclusion: A closer look at philanthropy

A jumble of words representing philanthropy and generosity. Philanthropy is yet another barrier to overcome in the quest for inclusion. As a service, it too, should be universally designed. The underpinning principle of universal design is inclusion. It’s captured in the Sustainable Development Goals with the phrase, “leave no-one behind”. So let’s take a closer look at philanthropy and what that means.

Employment of people with disability and other marginalized groups in the philanthropy sector is one issue. Including people with disability within all grants is another. However, the disability sector is most often treated as a stand-alone area for receiving grants. This segregation is not helpful – disability should be included within all projects. The Disability Philanthropy website has three videos that explain more and a resource library.

Ryan Easterly explains, “Philanthropy needs to do a better job reflecting society and communities in general.” Funders should consider disability and the how it affects all aspects of life. There is hardly any issue that a foundation would fund that doesn’t impact or include disability.

Guidance for Foundations on Creating Disability Advisory Groups might be a good place to start. It has a list of Things to Know, and Things to Avoid.

 

Videos more effective than policy

A brightly coloured film strip with the word Video on it.Policy is often seen as the way to make change. But when it comes to being inclusive it hasn’t worked very well. If policies, codes and papers are not accessible to all stakeholders, how can we create inclusion? Janice Rieger makes this point in her paper which will be the subject of her workshop at the UD Conference in Melbourne in May. She says videos make change more effectively than policy.

The title of her short paper and workshop is, Reframing Universal Design: Creating Short Videos for Inclusion. Her research provides insights on how videos travel and reach different audiences. This results in a significant impact and enacted change and informed policy. Dr Rieger concludes that “video impacts more than policies, codes and papers ever can”. 

Editor’s comment: I think this will be one of the highlights of the program. Janice works internationally and we are very pleased to have her contribution to the program.

Here is an extract from her paper:

“Video is a visceral medium, offering the opportunity to reframe universal design practice and education. It captures movements and can be co-created with people with disabilities. Videos co-created for inclusion encourage detailed and rich embodied knowledge and experiences because information is prompted by association with one’s surroundings. Significantly, videos have the capacity to excavate personalized knowledge of those with different abilities and uncover systems of exclusion that are often hidden or naturalized, and shamedly rendered invisible through policies, codes and papers.”

In a short video titled, Wandering on the Braille Trail, Sarah Boulton explains how she navigates the environment using her white can and tactile ground markers.

 

The right to participate and co-design

A graphic of a group of people including a wheelchair user.How do you include people in decisions that will affect them when it’s not easy for them to participate? It’s a chicken and egg situation. So, asking people with disability to contribute takes more than a survey or a community meeting. It needs a much more thoughtful process. Janice Rieger has some thoughts on the right to participate and co-design polices and processes.

Janice Rieger discusses the issues in relation to the next National Disability Strategy. Her briefing paper is titled, Right to Participate: Co-designing Disability Policies in Australia. Focusing on process rather than the end product sets the framework to reach a shared understanding. Her three recommendations for co-designing in practice are:

      1. Focus on abilities not disabilities
      2. Employ expertise to help
      3. Value the importance of creative practice

Public sector co-designing is an emerging field of practice. It provides the opportunity for creativity and innovative ideas. Reframing participatory engagement through a social justice lens takes us towards a co-designing process. 

Editorial Introduction

“We are entering a new era in Australia as we envision a new disability strategy to replace the current national disability strategy (2010–2020). During this transition, we can reflect on and recognise the changing disability landscape in Australia and ensure that we create a just and inclusive Australian society. Recent consultations and reports have called for people with a disability to directly engage in designing the new disability strategy in Australia, but what does that entail, and how will the rights of people with disabilities be upheld throughout this process? This brief describes public sector co-designing practice—an emerging practice aiming to open up new trajectories for policy development through a co-design process and to provide best practice recommendations for the next disability strategy in Australia.”

UD and Sustainable Development Goals

All 17 icons for the SDGs in an infographic.Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future for all. The SDG are interconnected and the aim is to “leave no one behind”. Universal design is now a key element of the SDG as a means of including people with disability. UN member states are required to report on disability and inclusion within their actions on the SDG. They will need to show measurable actions not just policies.

Sweden’s Ministry of Participation virtual event titled, The principle of universal design as a tool for leaving no-one behind provides a good background in how universal design links with the SDG. The video is an hour. At the five minute mark a UN rep explains the UN position. The second speaker listed was not able to join and the moderator spoke about disability and inclusion being at the heart of the SDG. At the 22-23 minute mark there is an interesting presentation on the convergence of UD and the SDG. Data graphics clearly explain why universal design is needed. The final speaker has a short session on a city project which is at the 51 minute mark.

Tip: The video is captioned so you can select a faster speed in the settings to read and hear. You will note that the closed captioning covers some other subtitling. This was the automatic live captioning that is a Zoom option. The closed captioning added later “tidies up” the auto captions and uses a larger font. 

Infographic of the five SDGs relating to disability.The Australian Disability and Development Consortium explains the concepts simply. It picks out the five key SDGs that relate specifically to disability. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a web page with Australia’s commitments to the SDG. The SDG agenda is not just about government but all sectors of society including business. The UN has an infographic poster that spells out the specific goals relating to disability. 

  • Goal 4 is about education
  • Goal 8 is about employment
  • Goal 10 is about reducing inequality
  • Goal 11 is accessible cities, transport and public spaces
  • Goal 17 is about data and data collection

Aged Care: The city and the bush

Ian Fitzgerald rides his horse in the sunshine.A Roy Morgan report gives us a good idea of what younger people think of aged care and what they expect for themselves. In a survey covering people aged 18-70+ years, they found that younger people think that going to aged care is acceptable. However, the closer the survey participants are to older age, the more likely they will want to stay home. This was emphasised in a program on ABC TV about a small rural community in Queensland.

The ABC program featured a 91 year-old farmer whose wife went to their nearest aged care facility 50 km away. He said, “I’ll feel guilty ’til the day I die that she had to go off.” The story featured the grief of the farmer and others who were separated from their friends and relatives. The farmer said he was “grafted onto the place”, but that it was inevitable he would need to go to a facility.

The ABC story was about a campaign to build a care facility in the small town. There was no mention of aged care at home. There was also no mention of home modifications or other options. Another solution is to have 6-10 universally designed villa-style units as a cluster where home help could be provided. A better solution is to have all new homes universally designed and start building housing stock suited to our futures.

There will always be a place for aged care facilities, but they are expensive to build and to run and are highly regulated. The Roy Morgan survey found that those who had visited an aged care facility felt residents had no control over their lives, were lonely and not happy. Nevertheless they believed residents were safe and comfortable. 

Hardly anyone had an idea how much the government contributes to aged care costs. Most thought it about half, but it is 78 per cent. This is something to consider. If people stay home longer, even with home care, the costs of running a facility are avoided. 

Bottom line? As people get closer to 70 and 80 years they want to stay home and be cared for at home with a mix of family and paid care. Younger people prioritised medical services whereas older people emphasised the need for help with everyday household tasks. This supports their wish to stay put. The different perspectives indicate that what younger people perceive about aged care and ageing is different from reality. 

The Roy Morgan report was commissioned by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and is titled, What Australians Think of Ageing and Aged Care.  

The ABC program is titled, Queensland country town pushes for regional aged care homes so the elderly aren’t forces to move to cities. It was broadcast on 19 July 2020 in the Landline program. It is available on iView.

Image courtesy ABC.

Is your professional association inclusive?

logo of American Sociological Society - blue on white backgroundThe American Sociological Association has developed a comprehensive policy to ensure the highest level of inclusion for all members. They have 15 recommendations that could be a model for others to follow.

While the focus is on conferences, seminars and other events they hold, the list also includes: how to file a disability complaint regarding the association, processes for membership renewal to the association, orientation to conference venue or meeting site, and web content accessibility rules. The article is in the Association’s publication, Footnotes, and is titledImplementing Professional Curb Cuts: Recommendations of the Status Committee on Persons with Disabilities.

ASA has on ongoing commitment to using universal design principles to make ASA events truly welcoming to all members. 

The Status Committee’s 15 recommendations are: 

    1. Continue to support the Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
    2. Continue to collect disability related data during membership renewal process.
    3. Fully institute a system for recording disability concerns and their resolution.
    4. Provide accessible electronic copies of the Annual Meeting program upon request as a standard accessibility feature.
    5. Establish as standard ASA policy and practice the distribution of a letter regarding disability services to members who check the box requesting information during their membership renewal.
    6. As part of standard meeting policy, the hotel should complete an accessibility checklist, preferably before contracting or at least a year before the meeting, to enable the identification of accessibility problems. Based on this checklist, ASA staff can identify potential problems and negotiate their resolution. Completed checklists should be recorded and saved, and made available to the committee to the extent appropriate, along with reports on changes made to properties in response to them.
    7. As part of standard meeting policy, the ASA should conduct an on-site inspection following receipt of the checklist.
    8. Provide an orientation/walk-through of the Annual Meeting site upon request as a standard accessibility service (to be conducted by members of the Committee or members of the Section on Disabilities).
    9. Provide a gender-neutral restroom as a standard accessibility service.
    10. Provide captioning for all plenary sessions as standard practice (not simply upon request).
    11. Insert accessibility features/concerns onto the Annual Meeting program maps.
    12. Materials related to the Annual Meeting site more broadly should offer relevant accessibility information (e.g., the restaurant guide, tour descriptions, and location transportation information).
    13. A brief mention of disability services and how to file a concern/complaint should be in the Annual Meeting program, on the website, and emailed to any member who has requested information on these services when they renewed their membership.
    14. As a matter of policy, include a link to the 2008 Footnotes articles on universal design and accessible presentations in acceptance notices for Annual Meeting presentations.
    15. Provide continued support needed to gain a “Double-A Conformance to Web Content Accessibility” sticker for the ASA web site, awarded by the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI). 

Counting costs that don’t count

Road workers in hi-vis vests are laying bitumen. Counting costs don't count.
Workers repairing the road

Ever wondered why economic arguments seem to fall on stony ground even when they’ve been well researched and even asked for? Seems politicians’ personal experience counts more when decisions are being made. A Norwegian researcher wanted to find out why road-building priorities diverge from those suggested by cost-benefit analysis. It is likely that many other policy decisions are made in a similar way, not just road investments. That’s why sometimes counting costs don’t count.

Here is an excerpt from the findings about why factors other than cost criteria mean that counting costs don’t count:

Political institutions have created a kind of gift relationship in the road sector, with the state as donor and municipalities as recipients.

To the extent that the state cannot scrutinize all assumptions and calculations of traffic, costs and benefits, an information asymmetry arises and favours the local receivers.

In cases of local/national conflict of interest, some key politicians and other stakeholders at the donor side either have their own agendas (such as campaigning), or their loyalty is with the recipient rather than the donor (society).

It seems reasonable that elected representatives are less likely to vote in accordance with the benefit/cost ratios of projects the more sceptical they are to the method of CBA. When sceptical, they are apt to look for alternative decision support, even if several studies have found CBA results to be quite robust.

The intention has not been to argue that the benefit/cost ratio should be decisive when setting priorities among projects on classified roads, but rather to highlight circumstances that tend to push CBA results into the background. The principle of choosing projects with high benefit/cost ratio may be supplemented by so many other assessment criteria that the difference between professional and political judgement is dissolved.”

The title of the article is, Why don’t cost-benefit results count for more? The case of Norwegian road investment priorities. Published in Urban, Planning and Transport Research an open access article.

Abstract:

The starting point is that the benefit/cost ratio is virtually uncorrelated to the likelihood of a Norwegian classified road project entering the list of investments selected for the National Transport Plan. The purpose of the article is to explain what pushes cost-benefit results into the background in the prioritization process.

The reasons for their downgrading point to mechanisms that are at work not only in Norway. Explanatory factors are searched for in incentives for cost-ineffective action among planners, bureaucrats and national politicians, respectively, as well as in features of the planning process and the political system.

New data are used to show that the road experts’ list of prioritized projects changes little after submission to the national politicians, suggesting that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration puts little emphasis on its own cost-benefit calculations. Besides, it is shown that the petroleum revenues of the state do not provide a strong reason for neglecting cost-benefit accounts.

The overall contribution of the article is to offer a comprehensive explanation why professional and political authorities in Norway set road-building priorities diverging massively from those suggested by cost-benefit analysis.