As kids head back to school, we’re asking for your help.
It’s become a trend in schools around the US to celebrate the 100th day of school by holding a “Dress Like a 100-Year-Old Day.” Pinterest and some websites provide instructions for parents to help their kids look and act the part of an old person.
- WikiHow recommends avoiding any bold or bright colors and instead to dress in drab solid colors and use a “simple walking cane and hobble around with that.”
- A Livestrong article coaches parents to encourage their child to call other people “sonny” and “go a little overboard as a stereotypical old person to make it more fun.”
- ClassyMommy describes a child’s perfectly put together costume:
Kyle’s wrinkles were the coolest and honestly they made him look utterly EXHAUSTED! He really looked his age. We kept asking him if he was tired and Kenzie thought he was making dirty faces at her since the wrinkles kind of gave him a permanent scowl. Too funny!
This is beyond disturbing. I was so angry when I read these posts and had to remind myself that these writers and the participating schools probably don’t have bad intentions. Their actions are just another reflection of the persistent and pervasive negativity surrounding aging in our culture.
That’s where we come in. We can’t let things like this continue.
We have to speak out
Today’s kids are tomorrow’s leaders. We have a great opportunity to inoculate them against the damaging effects of ageism.
Last year, when Kelly Papa, Corporate Director of Learning at Masonicare, learned that her child’s school was holding one of these “Dress Like a 100-Year-Old” days, she was horrified.
Kelly admits she had some hesitation in contacting the teacher but she realized she had to take action. She contacted the teacher and explained the concerns she had with this depiction of older people. Kelly was invited to come to the school and talk with the kids and set up a video conference so the kids could talk with Kelly’s 100-year-old aunt and learn about the gifts that come with aging. The teacher took the lesson one step further. She brought in two jars. In one jar, she placed 5 pennies, in the other 100 pennies. The kids then talked about how much more value the full jar, representing a 100-year-old, brings. The teacher went on to earn a board of education award for her efforts.
The actions we take, no matter how small, have a ripple effect on society. One of the most powerful things we can do is take a lesson from Kelly and boldly address ageism when and where we see it.
So, we’re asking for your help.
Consider commenting (kindly of course) on websites promoting these ageist stereotypes. If you hear of schools in your area that are planning a “Dress Like a 100-Year-Old Day” contact them and talk with them about options for 100th day celebrations that honor aging. You may want to be proactive and reach out to schools and inquire about their plans now.
So, are you in? Please share your commitment and ideas for age-honoring 100th day celebrations in the comments below.
This Post originally appeared on The Eden Alternative Blog
UPDATE: After the response to this blog the author along with Ashton Applewhite, Pioneer Network and LeadingAge partnered to write a letter that can be given to principals, PTAs etc. Find the letter here. Read about its genesis here.