A bold social experiment on aging was recently run. AARP, an ideas think tank, recently ran a public stunt, with a food truck, to powerfully bring the issue and reality of age discrimination to the front of our minds and hearts.

They set up a food truck on a public street and put out a sign for customers that read “No One Over 40”.

They filmed the reactions of customers, some over and some under 40, and to say that confusion, anger, grief and sadness immediately leap to mind, as you watch the attendant turn away those over 40, is an understatement.

There are few things that shock society as when a vulnerable group is exploited.

Sure, we get that sparks will fly and attempts to win over the other will occur at the highest levels of sports and government but the subconscious thought is that the dust will settle, and the one who trained and worked hardest will have their hard won victory.

When it comes to the marginalisation and neglect of the vulnerable, most of us would never agree or endorse a policy that saw the vulnerable exploited.

Yet when it comes to the treatment of seniors, the problem lies in the distance of where elder discrimination occurs, for those of us in positions of strength and resources, it occurs somewhere ‘out there’.

When the vulnerable are exploited and ignored it is usually done behind closed doors, under the cover of ‘grey’ policy and in the furthest rooms away, so that the issue of discrimination will remain in the back of our minds. That’s why AARP ran a public social experiment, to bring the issue front and centre in society’s view.

Discrimination, degradation and neglect have been occurring against the elderly for time immemorial.

It is not a new trend or fad, seniors across the globe have been battling against employer and societal bias for as long as there have been seniors. Whether actions and words contributing to the bias are conscious of subconscious, the consequences of being treated as ‘less than’ have been and will continue to be grievous unless we all start to act and train our minds differently.

Change starts with a perspective shift in both the heart and head, the elderly as human, they have skill and capabilities and they are complex and multifaceted beings like the rest of us.

There is something emotionally potent when discrimination is blatant, the social experiment was obvious and tangible, those over 40 were simply refused to be served.

We can point at it, be outraged and quite clearly say, “that’s wrong, how dare you?” As you can see in the video, some people did say that. But AARP and the social experiment they ran has deeper plans for us and the #disruptaging movement.

Through creating a situation where bias was obvious they are seeking to push our minds from just seeing and acknowledging obvious elder discrimination to training our minds and hearts to see and be outraged at the widespread and rampant discrimination in our societies and systems.

From employment discrimination to rental housing refusals and evictions, from elder abuse in everyday public treatment to financial exploitation (whether within families or external) and harassment, there is so much that needs to be brought into the light, acknowledged and changed.

The beginning of 2017 and continuing into this year saw a handful of aged care facilities  found to be in grievous breach of basic standards of care.

If aged care facilities, specifically tasked with looking after the elderly, are failing our seniors, even if a minority, how much more does every senior in Australia need the attitude of the Australian public to be one of committed focus to bringing rights, honour and dignity to them.

The social experiment AARP ran showed us that we do get angry when we see elder discrimination. It’s now time for us to think and act towards treating our elderly with respect and equality.

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