Does the Australian culture respect older people? 5 questions worth asking.

by Catherine Rickwood

What if we acknowledged people older than us in our own culture

I love the welcome usually given prior to a conference, school occasion, or other event in Australia. We’re asked to do two things: acknowledge the traditional landowners as the custodians of this land AND pay respect to Elders past and present. But, has this practice spilled over into a cultural tendency to respect all Elders regardless of our heritage?

Having travelled through many of Australia’s vast deserts and visited the northerly most point of Western Australia (Kalumburu) I love the acknowledgement of country. It’s a moment before the function when we’re asked to give consideration and respect to those whose land we occupy.

Australian culture

How often do we pay respect to our Elders past and present in the Australian culture though?

On an individual level we unconsciously pay respect when we offer our seat to an older person. In social settings we may ensure that an older person is being cared for and has company. I know when my grandmother was alive we’d always check that she had everything she needed and was comfortable. We wanted her to enjoy the event and have fun too! Of course when it’s a celebration for an older person, huge honour, love and respect is genuinely given – a sign of their rich, full life.

Assuming this is true in our personal life, then why do I enjoy the Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country so much?

Because we’re asked, publicly, to acknowledge Elders. To pay respect to their knowledge. The Oxford English dictionary defines Elder as: “People who are older than one”; and defines respect as: “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements”.

It’s important to remember that an Elder is simply someone older than us.  That includes people of all ages. However, my work and interest lies primarily with those people over 50.

The question is:

Do Australians (including our business and political leaders) respect older people?

5 questions worth asking ourselves

  1. In what ways does the Australian culture demonstrate respect for older people (and I admit I’m really referring to those over 50)?
  2. Do we seek to retain and recruit people older than us?
  3. Are advertising and marketing campaigns inclusive of people over 50?
  4. Do we consult older people when seeking advice – on anything?
  5. Did you know that people over 50 are a diverse, interesting, engaged, technology literate, and active part of our communities and commercial organisations and spend more per capita than younger people?

What will you do to include people over 50 into your work and personal life in 2017?

I look forward to hearing from you.

About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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