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Society's glue: why "oldies" need a good press

19 October 2013

Society's glue: why "oldies" need a good press
October 2013

The media has a strong role in portraying the over-60s in a good light, by highlighting their contribution to society.

Speaking at an open meeting of the NUJ's 60+ council, Emily Georghiou, Age UK public affairs adviser, said:

"Our aging society presents an enormous challenge. If we are unprepared, age discrimination will flourish if the over-60s are constantly shown in a negative light."

60 plus meeting
The 60+ open meeting © NUJ

She praised the NUJ as being active in producing material which gives a more rounded picture of the over-60s and she called on journalists to use their skills to counter the media's portrayal of aging, which is at odds with the role older people play.

"The over-60s are the glue which holds society together," she said. "The notion that the elderly are a burden on state must be countered by promoting the positive side of an aging society."

Chris Ball, of The Age and Employment Network charity, explained that his organisation promotes projects on the subjects of age and employment. Taen is committed to helping older people into work and help them if they lose their jobs. He said that Job Centre staff were often better at helping young people but less able to help older workers who had been thrown out of a job after 25 years.

He said:

"Taen work with employers who are lacking expertise in dealing with older workers and helps them to improve their re-integration into ways of work. In Britain, age discrimination is a problem and that is why employers, the government and other bodies need to sit down together, discuss the problems and look at different strategies to help older people stay in or find alternative work."

Pat Healy, chair of NUJ 60+, told the meeting about the campaigns and policies of the National Pensioner Convention. The NUJ is an affiliate of this umbrella group and she said the union should get behind its battle to combat government initiatives which will make the plight of pensioners even poorer than they are now.

Lena Calvert, NUJ equality officer, said that employers often pay lip service to progressive policies on employing older workers but in fact prefer to employ younger, preferably male, job seekers. She advised anyone who encounters age discrimination to go to their trade union for advice.

A wide-ranging discussion followed, which called on the TUC to upgrade its work with pensioners, given that more than one million are in employment. Within the NUJ, one in five are aged over 60. Eddie Barratt proposed that the group could form a taskforce to staff phone banks to help retain those who are thinking of leaving the union, or those who have lapsed.

Tags: , 60+, equality, Age UK