Agism cuts both ways, discriminating against both the so-called ‘young’ and ‘old,’ and turns these two seemingly innocuous words into pejoratives. When ‘young’ and ‘old’ are used colloquially rather than as they were intended (as comparative markers of time) they become profane.
Like questions about any other topic, the ones we ask about aging and the ways in which we choose to answer them reveal what we believe and care about.
On any given weekday at 210 North Champion Street in Columbus, Ohio, elders and preschoolers can be seen mixing bubble solutions and puffing at them together in the activity room, caring for plants outside in the mobile gardening units, reading books aloud to one another in the classroom, or rehearsing a play in the auditorium.
Our relationship with aging can remain as a loving friendship throughout our lives when we understand that it’s a cumulative experience that provides us with an ever-changing variety of psychological and spiritual gifts –– if we are open to anticipating and accepting them.
If we fail to appreciate the ways in which every generation is different, we deny ourselves some valuable resources for expanding our understanding of what it means to be a human being –– of any age.
Erica Girgenti’s appointment as director of a senior center in Western Massachusetts was met with some skepticism because of her age. Yes, her age. Not because she is older, but because she is younger—a millennial, in fact.
The days when elders were seen as wise and important contributors to their communities vanished long ago. Thanks to advertising and social media, eighty-year-olds and up are associated with diapers, dementia, and a mountain of hospital-looking equipment that reduces them to their “Activities of Daily Living (ADL)” needs.
The deterioration-decline meme that defines aging in our culture originates in a narrow perception of the lifespan that is blind to the priceless assets we accrue as we add years to our lives.
Ashton Applewhite’s new book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism is a wake-up call, especially for those who have the urge to make a difference while here, alive, and with the heart for change.
The goal of aging-simulation experiences — “to build empathy and awareness”—is commendable. But does donning an “aging suit” actually do that? Actual 85-year-olds, whose experiences are deeply variable and who are navigating the world despite a range of functional limitations, don’t think so.
Abolishing ageism is a revolutionary cause whose time has come. This Chair Rocks by Ashton Applewhite is its inspiring manifesto.
As children we welcomed the aging process excitedly, wondering when we would grow and what we would look like. We quickly lose this wonder as we become seduced by an anti-aging culture into disavowing, denying and resisting aging. We’re pressured to see aging as a villain to be stopped, to be restrained.
It seems that one of the tasks of we elders is to break through our culture’s collective mass blindness and to make ourselves visible. In doing so, we take care of ourselves, and we help awaken the human world to its own potential, which it cannot see right now.
We all play a role in creating culture and it often takes a radical idea to shift thinking in our society. Here is mine: Be Bold, Claim Old.
About eight years ago, Ashton Applewhite began interviewing people over 80 for a project called “So when are you going to retire?” It didn’t take her long to realize that almost everything she thought she knew about aging was wrong. So she wrote a book to set the record straight.
The tension between generations is indeed worth studying, but mostly as a red herring and a symptom of how aging has been reframed as a problem.
According to a growing body of research, the average lifespan of those with high levels of negative beliefs about old age is 7.5 years shorter than those with more positive beliefs. In other words, ‘ageism’ may have a cumulative harmful effect on personal health.
Anyone who fights ageism by working hard to understand its internal or external character is, first and foremost, the practitioner of a noble craft. Like acting, it takes experience and perseverance to hone one’s skills.
Age discrimination affects our country’s business, economy, values, and human dignity. It’s time we transform our perceptions of aging, from dependency and weakness to one of proficiency and resourcefulness.
In the course of a typical day, I and many other older adults who are retired or live in generationally segregated communities or work and socialize only with others our age have very few personal interactions with younger people. And I’m convinced that we are the lesser for it.