GLOBAL women's health champion Maggie Kirkman said ageism was hard to break when spruiked at a federal level.
Dr Kirkman, speaking in Ballarat on Wednesday, said while ageism occurred across the lifespan, her research into women mental health showed women want respect, they want to be treated as individuals, they want to maintain their independence and self-worth, they want good health care - and they want to break stereotypes about older women.
This comes as treasurer Josh Frydenberg called for Australians in their mid-to-late 60s needing to re-train to keep in touch with the jobs market in a bid to contribute more to the economy.
Dr Kirkman is a senior researcher with Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University. She has not found clear differences in ageist attitudes between regional and metropolitan Australia, only that women in regional areas anaecdotally tended to cite strong community support.
But, Dr Kirkham felt Mr Frydenberg's comments had negative implications for an ageing population.
"A lot of people might benefit from employers with an open attitude beyond age to a person's capacity to work and knowledge they could offer," Dr Kirkham told The Courier. "There are a lot of farmers and independent business owners who have been in those jobs for years."
A lot of people might benefit from employers with an open attitude beyond age to a person's capacity to work and knowledge they could offer.Dr Maggie Kirkham
Dr Kirkham was guest for Women's Health Grampians annual general meeting in Lucas, speaking on sexism, ageism and support for women to age well.
Language is a key way Dr Kirkham suggests for creating change at the grassroots. For example, not letting people get away with worn-out jests like 'don't be such an old woman' or the more subtle nuances in compliments, like' but you don't look 70'.
Dr Kirkham, aged 72, said the other way to stamp out ageism was to not hide your age.
"There can be a lot of ageism around holding a spot and preventing a younger person from having a job," Dr Kirkham said. "I try to be a pioneer. If I'm supported, I contribute to the employment of other people with experience."
I try to be a pioneer. If I'm supported, I contribute to the employment of other people with experience.Dr Maggie Kirkham
Dr Kirkham said Women's Health Grampians was playing a pivotal role in breaking gender stereotypes.
WHG celebrated its Equality for All program, introduced this year. The program has trained a team of women to speak from lived experience in the community.
Equality for All aims to celebrate the strengths of a diverse range of women and inspiring courage to be their true selves without fear f being judged for the way they look, how they dress or how they are expected to act.
WHG chief executive officer Marianne Hendron said continuing the program, which was funded to March, was one of the organisation's major goals for next year.
It really brings a human perspective to the notion of why inclusions is important.
"It really brings a human perspective to the notion of why inclusions is important," Ms Hendron said. "What this actually means is not just about policy but to see the impact, or lack of it, inclusion has on people's lives."
WHG has four equality advocates in the Wimmera, including Katie Much who has cerebral palsy and advocates for others living with disabilities in finding a job.
There are six champions in the Central Highlands and one in Ararat, including Ballarat's Joy Juma who hails from Kenya and often feels discrimination from those who assume she does not speak English.
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