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Older Australian are the group of the people who make a change to the country and made enormous contribution to our present society, community and a nation as whole. However, the effort provided by this generation, the older group are not recognised and are living in isolation and exclusion. Being old is a biological phenomenon and most of the senior citizens are out of economic activities. But this stage is considered as negative, stereotype and highlighted as burden and dependency and leads to various social discrimination to this group of people. There are various negative attitude and stereotype are existing in the Australian societies and it has severe impact in the livelihood of senior citizens. The age discrimination is prevalent in families, government policy, workplace, age care, media and community. The senior citizens are also considered as invisible part of the society where most of older people are not actively participate in economic activities and they seemed to be burden of families. The discrimination and invisibility create severe impacts in social and emotional life of older people. Sense of guilt, anger, shame and sadness are the common results which leads them to social isolation, exclusion, depression and mental illness (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2013). The impact of ageism on older people can be categorized into three different area.:
- Economic impact
The aging group have adverse effect on the economic activities of the country but there is no drastic effect. Economists accept the fact that aging create labour shortage in market but at the same time it is considered as older people are less productive than other age group (Maestas, Mullen, & Powell, 2016). There is no such concrete evidence of labour shortage due to aging but there is various age-related discrimination in workplace resulting low chance of job and fired form job. Living without job makes life difficult to meet daily requirements for living and there is increase in health cost. Despite, older people are ignored in economic participation, older people are working as voluntary, family carer and community activities and considered as strong social capital (Bartlett, 2004). Another problem facing by older people is poverty and it is difficult for them to manage for their daily expenses such as food, housing, clothing and health cost (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2010).
The role of social worker can be seen in lobbying older people to engage in community to break the social isolation. Older people are social capital and should be promoted to reintegrate in the societies.
- Social impact
Increase in age has various change in the physical and social environment. One of the major changes facing by senior citizens of Australia is social exclusion. Unable to participate in economic activities, ignorance, negative attitude toward age and unable to participate in social engagements are results in social exclusion (Lui, Warburton, Winterton, & Bartlett, 2011). Abuses are the common challenges faced by the older people. Elder abuse can be seen on physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial forms. Physical abuses include rough handling (pushing, pulling, beating), improper health care and over medication. Financial abuse includes looting, theft, misuse of assets and property. Fraud and pressure to make financial transaction are common form of financial abuses. Emotional or Psychological abuse includes ignorance, negative attitude and care without respect. The abusers are commonly family members and professional care givers (Manoj, 2017). With all these challenges older people are separated from the society and are living in isolation.
- Psychological impact
With all the abuses, discrimination, negative attitude and ignorance have severe impact on the life of old age people. The biological phenomenon makes older people physically and mentally weak and the problems that they have to suffer have ripple effect on the them. The term mental illness includes sub-clinical levels such as stress, anxiety, depression, dependence on alcohol and drugs. Biological, social, and cultural factors are responsible for the mental illness. In case of older people living independently, losing life partners or family member and change in social and economic factors are responsible. Living in isolation is also related to the factor of reduced mobility, disability or chronic condition. The fragile relationship with family and society also lead to the suicidal behaviours (AIHW, 2015).
Social Work Intervention
There is range of activities and areas of intervention conducted by the social worker in Australian. Social workers are working on all level of intervention; Micro, Mezzo and Macro. In old age, social workers are supporting through age care and carer support. The roles include direct service, service management, service development and policy where others are supporting through housing, income support, support to indigenous support, disability and community development. Being human, older people also have right to live without discrimination, independence, choices and should be treated with respect and dignity. Government and non-profit organisation are working to eliminate the challenges faced by the older people. In Australia there are various designs services and facilities are developed to assist old aged people such as Home and Community Care, Packaged Community Care and Residential Care. These services are operating with various professional care giver and social worker also plays direct and indirect role to support old age people (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2013).
Working with older people includes broad perspective of biological, psychological, life course and social theories which are used for the assessment and intervention. Social worker not only focuses on old aged people but also study families, partners, children and care giver. Social worker practice areas include Assessments (psychological, risk, care), Counselling (individuals, family), therapy and mediation, Practical assistance (housing, homelessness, residential care), Case management and service coordinator, Advocacy and Policy and research (Brand & Wilkinson, 2015).
The above problems can be reduced with the proper support and care to the older people. Psychological, social and behavioural factors play a significant role in the case of supporting older people. Providing proper diet, exercises, counselling and proper care can reduce the mental distress. The intervention for mental illness begin at every level of older people live. Prevention intervention includes reduction in alcohols and drugs which reduces depression, aggressiveness and negative feelings. Psychosocial intervention includes cognitive-behavioural therapy and family based-intervention (WHO, 2003).
Theories and Approach for Ageism: Critical Social Work Perspective
Social exclusion plays significant role to the current problems faced by the different age groups especially old age people. Negative attitude, stigma, and stereotype are the common phenomenon for the older people. Although there are various inner factors which lead to social exclusion such as losing family member or partner, disability and unable to blend to the group. Social Inclusion approach suggests that economic and social hardship increase the risk of social exclusion. Social participation and civic engagement are the main focus of the social inclusion. Cultural, language, gender, religion and tradition also lead to the isolation. Voluntary service and community services are one of the significant area in to engage older people together (Lui et al., 2011).
Behavioural and negative attitude leads social isolation, exclusion and invisibility in the society. Behavioural such as disrespectful, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and discrimination are the common practices. Behavioural discrimination is prevalent in wide area of social and organisational settings. While working with the ageism social worker can implement social cognitive theory which is one of the effective behavioural change theory. In this theory behavioural is interconnected with the personal and environmental factors. Intervention with this theory includes self-efficacy, outcome expectation, self-control, reinforcements, emotional coping and observational learning (The Benevolent Society, 2017).
Ageism is a kind of oppression that has sever affect in social, personal and emotional aspect of life. Oppression happen everywhere and have several forms, when a person is discriminate based on gender, age, sex, religion and class it affects the human right and freedoms. To work on behalf of ageism, it need bigger change. Social change is needed to eradicate the stigma and stereotype related to age. Anti-oppressive is a form of social justice which change the policy and create equity in the society. Anti-oppressive practice of social work attempts to make a social change through new form of knowledge and activism. It includes various approaches such as feminist, Marxist, post-modern, Indigenous post-structural, critical constructionist, anti-colonial and anti-racist. Ageism is a big challenge and it needs changes in every sector in society. For the change and social justice social movement is carried out with mainstream social workers which have wide mainstream agendas (Baines, 2007).
Professional social workers are the change agents and in term of ageism especially in old age people, social worker works with government and non-government organisations. With a primarily focus on human right and dignity social workers work with holistic approach to meet the need of targeted group and individual.
- AIHW. (2015). Mental health of older Australians. Australias Welfare 2015, (12), 1–6. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/c2ff6c58-e05e-49ed-afd7-43bd21eef4e2/AW15-6-4-Mental-health-of-older-Australians.pdf.aspx
- Australian Association of Social Workers. (2013). Ageing in Australia. Australian Planner, 20(3), 122–123. https://doi.org/10.1080/07293682.1982.9656958
- Australian Human Rights Commission. (2010). Age discrimination – exposing the hidden barrier for mature age workers. Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/age-discrimination/publications/age-discrimination-exposing-hidden-barrier-mature-age
- Baines, D. (2007). Chapter One-Introduction Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice Fighting for Space, Fighting for Change, 1–8.
- Bartlett, P. H. (2004). Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia The Productivity Commission Submission from The Australasian Centre on Ageing , The University of Queensland September 2004, (September).
- Brand, S., & Wilkinson, G. (2015). Scope of Social Work Practice Social Work in Aged Care. Scope of Social Work Practice : Social Work in Aged Care, 1–8.
- Lui, C. W., Warburton, J., Winterton, R., & Bartlett, H. (2011). Critical reflections on a social inclusion approach for an ageing Australia. Australian Social Work, 64(3), 266–282. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2011.573860
- Maestas, N., Mullen, K. J., & Powell, D. (2016). The Effect of Population Aging on Economic Growth, the Labor Force and Productivity. NBER Working Paper Series, 22452, 53. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
- Manoj, H. R. (2017). The Need for Social Work Intervention.
- The Benevolent Society. (2017). the Drivers of. The Drivers of Ageism, (September). Retrieved from https://newsandviews.benevolent.org.au/ageing-well-at-home/the-drivers-of-ageism
- WHO. (2003). Investing in M E N TA L H E A LT H. Who, 3–49. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/dar059
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