Report on ageism flags dementia misunderstanding in younger people

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By Alice Tuohy | Thursday 07 June 2018

Royal Society for Public Health and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation: ‘That Age Old Question’ report

A report launched today by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has identified negative attitudes to age from childhood onwards, releasing results of a national survey showing that participation in activities, memory loss and appearance are three of the most negatively viewed areas when people are asked to think about getting older. The survey found that two in five (40%) of 18-24 year-olds believed “there isn’t any way to escape getting dementia as you age”.

The report discusses the factors that influence ageist attitudes across society and sets out a series of calls to action to improve the stigma ingrained in society around age. These include an independent review of how older people are represented in the media, creating a positive narrative around ageing in the workplace and within schools, and ending the use of the term ‘anti-ageing’ in the cosmetic and beauty industries.

Tim Parry, Director of Communications at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“We must applaud the RSPH and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for throwing an important spotlight on ageism and the broad impact it has across society. Although age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, a condition that is now the UK’s leading cause of death, developing dementia is not an inevitable part of growing older. Dementia is caused by diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s, and the view that it is a natural consequence of age is outdated and unhelpful to progress for those affected.

“Dementia research has been underfunded for decades compared to other common health conditions, which has a knock-on effect on the speed of scientific discovery. Research carried out by Alzheimer’s Research UK has long suggested that one barrier holding back funding and progress is a fatalism driven by deeply ingrained negative attitudes to ageing. With one in three babies born in the UK today expected to reach their 100th birthday, we must start to foster a culture of openness, understanding and acceptance of those at every stage of their lives.”

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Alice Tuohy