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13 July 2014
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Anne Gallagher, 67, is a retired nurse Image of Anne Gallagher

How would you like to be treated as a caricature? The media makes us look like fools in advertisements. We are an unseen population in that every time you put the television on, or newspapers in fact, have photographs of young people - the world seems to revolve around teenagers and young people.

How do you feel younger people in society treat older people?

I think younger people have lost the respect that they used to have for older people. Grandparents used to hold quite an important role within the family, but whether it is due to television, I don't know, due to the media - but now younger people treat them with derision and as a laughing stock. And the fact of the matter is that everybody gets old in the end, and you have to respect those people. Do you know that only 5% of older people need that specialised care that is so begrudged them? 95% of older people lead useful and active lives - they look after their grandchildren, they head up all the voluntary organisations (no charity shop could run without them), and yet they're treated as second-class citizens continually both in hospitals, in education and in the community. And I think it is something that needs to be rectified.

How do you think the government could rectify this situation of discrimination against older people?

Well, a lot of older people are poor. Women in particular don't have the same pension rights as men, and those of us who stayed at home to look after our children, for most of our lives, we don't have…we have a very reduced state pension. And therefore we are dependent on top-ups from government which are invariably means-tested. This makes us feel that we are begging and we're sponging on society and, indeed, that is the image that comes across from society itself. And you sometimes hear young people complaining about the fact that taxes may be put up to pay higher pensions, and they don't seem to realise the contribution that older people are making to the world.

What about the importance of the Single Equality Bill? How will that help rectify discrimination against older people?

Well, at the moment, it is not an offence to discriminate against older people in this country, but a Single Equality Bill would hopefully put that right by making age discrimination as illegal as every other discrimination - and therefore we would be able to address the problem through courts, if we felt and knew that we were discriminated against.






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