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Raising awareness of ageism through art

Despite the prevalence of ageism, it continues to be a hidden and misunderstood issue in our community

Gerard Mansour
Two people viewing art together

Despite the prevalence of ageism, it continues to be a hidden and misunderstood issue in our community. An art competition by Australian Multicultural Support Services (AMCSExternal Link ) aims to change that by challenging the negative stereotypes of ageism.

What is ageism?

Ageism is described by the World Health OrganisationExternal Link as how we think, feel and act towards others or ourselves based on age.

While ageism can be experienced at any stage of life, it’s most likely to happen to older and younger people. Assumptions or stereotypes about age can impact all areas of our lives – our confidence, career choices and job prospects, health, quality of life and our control over life decisions.

A recent report by the Australian Human Rights CommissionExternal Link found while 83% of survey respondents believe ageism is a problem, over half agree that making jokes about age is more socially acceptable than making jokes about things like race or gender.

Age is a protected characteristic under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act. That means age-based discriminationExternal Link is against the law if it happens in areas of public life, such as work, education, clubs and sporting groups, shops and restaurants, aged care and accommodation. Age-based discrimination was one of the top five most common issues raised by Victorians to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights CommissionExternal Link last year.

AMCS Challenging agesim through art poster with 3 images

Left to right:

Dabgraphixs artwork, Forever Caring. And Gerardo Chierchia video of 92-year-old Francesca. And Fleur O’Briene artwork.

Challenging ageism through art

The way we talk about and represent growing older can have a big impact on public perceptions of ageism. As the saying goes, a picture can tell a thousand words – and artists took on the challenge of changing the way we see age forAustralian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) Inaugural Anti-ageism Art ChallengeExternal Link . Congratulations to AMCS on starting this initiative to challenge stereotypes and present ageing in a positive light. I was thrilled to be part of the judging panel for this innovative competition and appreciated the different ways each artist tackled the important theme.

Dabgraphixs artwork, Forever Caring, was inspired by his late grandparents. “As a student social worker, I believe that we should continue to celebrate life. Age should not be a barrier to challenging lifelong expectations,” Dabgraphixs says.

Gerardo Chierchia explored the theme through video featuring the strength, happiness and joy of 92-year-old Francesca singing, dancing and having fun. “What she did in the end, dancing like a teenager, sparked my heart. I wanted to send this video for the art challenge for everyone to see, because there is no better way to age – she [Francesca] is the best!” Gerardo says.

Graphic designer and personal care advisor Fleur O’Briene’s positive painting is a celebration of life that explores the symbolism of rainbows across cultures and religions as a sign of ascension to a spiritual world.

The artwork of winners and finalists will be displayed at a special exhibition on Friday 7 October at Footscray StudioExternal Link from 11.30am until 5.00pm.

Take action

This Ageism Awareness Day, I invite you, your friends and family to talk about and improve your understanding of ageism. There are some great resources to get you started including the ‘Am I ageist?’External Link quiz developed by the Every Age Counts campaign and the Framing Age Message GuideExternal Link .

If you see or hear ageism, safely call it out. Start a conversation about why it’s not OK to make assumptions or jokes based on a person’s age.

To join in the national campaign against ageism, visit the Every Age Counts websiteExternal Link .

Reviewed 29 September 2022