Written by Tammy Milne – PDA’s Tasmanian Director
As a woman of a certain age, I have noticed a change in the way I am perceived.
I have always been disabled. Had mobility aids since birth and always thought the primary factor for the discrimination I encountered was related to my disability. Well, welcome to the new age of being older.
I am now seen as an elderly lady on a mobility scooter. Not a disabled woman on a mobility scooter.
So, like a slap of reality, I am now encountering age discrimination.
I have white hair – trendy cutting edge white hair, but still white hair. This labels me as old.
Where in the past I put down being sidelined because of disability, now I can add being aged as well. I am simply too old to be relevant.
They say age is a state of mind. Well hell, my mind is sharp and active and connected to happenings of the world.
I go to hip festivals and dance with the young ones. I’m a cool person aye, BUT I am still old(er).
Not old enough for a senior’s card but, when I am, I will wield it like a badge of honour. Unlike many of my peers I will be blessed to have reached old age.
You might be reading this and think, go you, living the life. However, there is a more sinister side to the intersection of age and disability. There is a hidden cost to growing older. According to NDIS National Quality and Safeguard Commission research (2023), people with disabilities are 5 times more likely to die of preventable illness than the general population and die predominantly much younger than the general population. 49% of all people with disability who die early have physical disabilities.
The intersectionality I now have to navigate in my life is age and disability. Well, I’m not going down without a fight. There is plenty of fight in the old dog and I’m ready for it and it seems my life depends on it.
I need to be proactive in my own healthcare and I can. I need to be vocal at my GP and my specialist about my needs and expectation of their care for me.
Discrimination in the healthcare system is real for people with disabilities. A study by Roger’s et al (2015) reported that 1 in 17 people with disabilities that present for medical treatment feel discriminated against. Anecdotally this is much higher.
We are often ignored, not believed or misdiagnosed. I have a bloody loud voice (my croaky voice) and I will use it to make sure that everyone receives the care they need and deserve in this, our lucky country. I’ll be doing this education one clinician at a time. Hard work, but guess what? You can do it too. Think of all those other people with disabilities unable to articulate their needs. Our work will help them. Let’s smash that discrimination.
I’m not a granny on a scooter. I am a warrior on my electric steed, waging war on ageism and ableism. Adding another bow to my quiver of “what needs to be torn down” in our society.
Image: selfie of a woman (Tammy the blog’s writer) wearing glasses, with a trendy white hairstyle, wearing a pink t-shirt with “volunteer” printed and a pink/orange neck scarf. By her side is a younger woman wearing the same t-shirt, sunglasses and a baseball cap. She is Michelle, Tammy’s support worker. They are working at Hay Day’s recent music festival in Hobart. Other people are interacting behind them.