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Australian bishops speak out against "dehumanising" ageism

by Hannah Tooley

The collection of bishops released a document reminding people that everyone ages and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Their 2016-17 social justice statement, 'A Place at the Table: Social Justice in an Ageing Society,' has been released ahead of a special discussion taking place on Sunday.

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council issues a major statement each year for areas society can work on over the coming twelve months.

This year, they are warning of the toxic attitudes many people direct towards elderly people, including ideas of euthanasia and assisted dying, claiming the Western world is obsessed with youth.

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, council chairperson, said stereotypes of older people are "false and dehumanising."

The bishops urge Catholics to think of Pope Francis' warnings against speaking along the lines of "quality of life," which can make some think that lives affected by grave illness are not lives worth living.

Their report says they want to celebrate the "value, dignity and significant contributions of older people to the life of the community."

It goes on: "In solidarity with all generations, older people have a rightful place in the heart of community life.

"The Bishops confront the utilitarianism in our society that values people only for what they produce and contribute economically and that, at worst, can regard older people as burdensome or dispensable."

The Catholic leaders say data shows a quarter of people over 50 had experienced some form of age-based discrimination

They are pushing for more workplace flexibility for older people, and for increased training in their fields.

Sunday's meeting will also look in depth at the strain on grandparents to look after grandchildren, as well as the gender gap when it comes to retirement savings.

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