A story in the Fairfax media – The Age and Sydney Morning Herald – last Monday with the headline Older Homeowners Staying Put Making Houses Scarcer for Young Families has received an angry response from many older people who say they feel insulted and demeaned. COTA has had phone calls and emails urging us to take action and many have written to the papers expressing their concerns about what they see as an increase in ageist reporting by Fairfax journalists.
COTA has noticed an increase in ageist stereotyping in the media. Most readers of Fairfax are over 55 years so we ask why are they alienating their own readers?
Kerrie summed it up when she wrote to us yesterday:
I am becoming more and more concerned about the subtle ageist messages that currently pervade the language of our media and our political spokespeople. I refer to such phrases such as ‘the problem of our ageing population’, ‘the cost of our ageing population’ etc. and many others that in our daily commentary peddle the idea that people over 50 are a burden who are somehow taking up too much room on the planet who should just move over or check out. I am a healthy 58year old who does many hours of voluntary work in addition to providing child care for my grandchild. I still provide a home for two adult children. My friends are similar and yet we are being made to feel more and more that we are not living productively or meaningfully and that some of our rightful choices deserve to be challenged.
I refer you to today’s Fairfax article whose very headline confers blame for a problem on older people who have the temerity to remain in their family home – OLDER HOMEOWNERS STAYING PUT MAKING HOUSES SCARCER FOR YOUNG FAMILIES. The article quotes an ‘explosive’ new report that finds a huge build up of households like the featured 92 year old’s who chooses to live with paid help in the family home her husband built 52 years ago. The inference throughout is that our choice to stay in our family homes in the communities we have spent our young years building and sustaining selfishly locks out younger people who want to come and live in the places we made attractive in the first place. One of the authors, Dr. Bob Birrell says we ‘are not making way for young people’. The article omits to mention any statistic about how many older family homes in middle suburbs have been lost to the developer’s wrecking ball to make way for the townhouses and apartments which the piece claims do not suit the needs of families. In my street alone there are at least a dozen family homes and their yards that have been made unavailable to families because of multi-unit development. Surely this is making a contribution to the loss of backyards for the children too so why lay the blame solely on us? I would willingly bet that when 92 year-old Winifred Hirst does move on there’s a good chance it will be the developers and their money bags that remove even her family home. It will unlikely be available for mum, dad, the kids and a dog and their hopes of building a cubby, growing some decent trees, playing a bit of backyard cricket and drying their washing on a clothes line. How will that be Mrs. Hirst’s fault, or mine when I move from my family home?
And then the clincher for me – the heading above the map showing the suburbs in which we older family home owners choose to stay – “HOGGED BY THE OVER 50’s”. What a disgusting inference – that living in my own family home is greedy, selfish and unworthy.
I have given up writing to Fairfax. They never respond and my ageing old crone’s grizzling won’t change their reporting style anyway. This article is however just an example of a broader ideology that I feel is creeping into our society. I hope it is organisations such as yours that has the voice of advocacy I think people in my demographic are really going to need if ageism and its pedlars are to be curtailed.
Regards and thanks for being there,