Society is systematically isolating and stripping older people of their quality of life - Daxa Patel

Diversity, inclusion, and equality is important but listening to all three leaders of the major political parties at their respective party conferences I did not see much focus on empowering our wise elders. I know there are many critical issues that warrant a solution, but this too should be on the to-do list.

My problem is if leaders don’t champion respect in later life as part of our values and acceptable standards of today’s lifestyle then what chance do ordinary people have?

We are inspired by the many famous wise souls like Sir Michael Caine who announced his retirement age 90 this weekend.

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We have the inspirational Sir David Attenborough who aged 97 continues to remind us of the damage we are doing to wildlife and the ecosystem.

'Card only businesses forget that not everyone has a credit or debit card'. PIC: Alamy/PA.'Card only businesses forget that not everyone has a credit or debit card'. PIC: Alamy/PA.
'Card only businesses forget that not everyone has a credit or debit card'. PIC: Alamy/PA.

We also have gracious women like Dame Judy Dench and Dame Maggie Smith. Let’s not forget our late Queen who kept working until the very end of her life of service.

There are more well-known people who inspire us daily so we should extend the same admiration and courtesy for our wise ones in our own personal world.

My dad was 95. I left work to be with him a year before he passed. He retained his zest for life despite his age.

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So much so that he suggested that he wanted to start a business selling Indian street food from our front drive at the age of 95.

He loved his independence, so we got a mobility scooter. As he went around the block, he complained it was not fast enough.

As I share this, I recall his humour and his intellect and to me he was the dad I’d known all my life, not the old person some may have thought he was on account of his age.

I am certain, like my dad, many of the readers here will be surrounded by their parents, and grandparents who are equally amazing.

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Why is it so hard for service providers to see them in the same light as we do? Diversity, inclusion, and equality must extend to empower our wise elders as a matter of right. But this does not happen.

Wheelchair access is not always a given. This is a bar to those who are independent but are not able to walk or climb stairs to access places.

Card only businesses forget that not everyone has a credit or debit card.

Online businesses are exceedingly hard to access for a wise elder who does not have the wherewithal to shop online.

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Society is systematically isolating and stripping older people of their quality of life. That is a bold statement, and possibly harsh I accept but I stand by this because modern society is more focused on young people. What if we focused not on you and me but on us?

If we flip this on the head and see older people with equal regard as the young, how would this impact on how we behave and speak about them?

Referring to ‘your old man’ is disempowering. A common enough use of words but it is a sample of how we have stopped seeing how we disempower others through our daily language.

The truth about life after 80 is this. We have a growing population over this age who have an independent spirit and ability to live as we do.

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Pensioners now outnumber under 16s in Britain. Give them the same life choices as we have in all that we do. Businesses and service providers need to do more than provide lip service.

We need focus groups made of people over 80 to see what they want and listen to them with intent, then implement to meet their needs, and wishes.

Seeing Angela Rippon age 79 on BBC Strictly dancing left many of us in awe.

Much is done to empower women and other groups, and charities do their best to champion the causes relevant to this age group, but I reckon it is down to us all to stop seeing a person for their age but see them for their wit, and wisdom.

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We have made some progress as job applications no longer insist on knowing the age of the candidate.

Equally, some employers are more interested in experience rather than age, but a more conscious effort is warranted in all walks of life.

Leaders need to lead us in the revolution to remove ageism from every aspect of our world.

If I keep coming back to this it is because I have a vested interest, the longer I live the more likely I am to face age discrimination as I have seen so many I admire suffer needlessly.

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We could say what does it matter if we see people through the prism of their age as opposed to what they bring to our lives? That is a valid question, but language and our behaviour can be silent killers in making others feel they are not valued.

The next time you meet a person who looks ‘old’, resist judgement. Hold off speaking louder thinking they cannot hear, hold off repeating your words to make them feel small, just think before you speak and act.

Daxa Manhar Patel is a leadership coach, author and solicitor.