SOCIETY DOESN’T VALUE OLDER PEOPLE
Brian Cox, the Hollywood star, has criticised the way British society treats elderly people, claiming they are marginalised and their experience undervalued.
The 63-year-old Scottish actor said youth is celebrated disproportionately and insufficient recognition given to the the value of older people.
He said there was not enough financial support given to the elderly, many of whom lived in difficult conditions. He added that conditions affecting older people, such as dementia, were not taken seriously enough.
The Dundee-born actor has agreed to appear alongside Sir Ian McKellan in a television campaign for Age UK, the new organisation that has replaced Age Concern and Help the Aged.
He said eastern cultures and those of the Indian sub-continent showed greater respect for age and experience. “We tend to be such a youth-orientated culture. I think it’s time that that was reversed because everybody’s going to get old. Diseases like Alzheimer’s tend to be thought of as a geriatric thing but it can start at any age.
“Age is something to be celebrated, not regarded as marginal because it comes to everyone. If Age UK can achieve one thing, it is to give [the elderly] back their dignity and respect.”
Cox said ageism extended into the acting world. As a young actor he was given roles which he felt were better suited to people 20 years older who had more experience.
Television adverts for Age UK featuring Cox show him speaking to camera with his voice dubbed over with those of older people. The voices raise issues such as fear of memory loss, the wish to work beyond 65 and the desire for companionship.
He said he agreed to become involved after being touched by his brother-in-law’s battle with dementia.
“I have relatives who are getting older ,” he said. “My sister’s husband has dementia and I’ve watched him over the last two years and seen an enormous change.
“There’s a lack of knowledge about these things.”
A YouGov survey for Age UK of people over 60 found that 78% believed older people were ignored by society and 82% said their voices were not heard as much as younger people’s.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “We will challenge ageist prejudice in society, provide services that address market failures and support the public and private sectors to design age-friendly products and services.
“We will assist people to remain in their own homes through campaigning and supporting the provision of practical services and our information service will offer thousands of people support on a range of issues from claiming benefits to staying fit and healthy.”