This Chair Rocks

People are happiest at the beginnings and the ends of their lives. The vast majority of Americans over 65 live independently. The older people get, the less afraid they are of dying. Aging is a natural, lifelong, powerful process. So how come so many of us unthinkingly assume that depression, diapers, and dementia lie ahead? That the 20th century’s astonishing leap in life expectancy is a disaster-in-the making? Underlying all the hand-wringing is ageism: discrimination that sidelines and silences older people. So I’ve written a book. I blog about it. I have a Q & A blog called Yo, Is This Ageist? (Go ahead, ask me.) I’ve written a consciousness-raising booklet. And I speak widely. All tools to help catalyze a movement to make discrimination on the basis of age as unacceptable as any other kind.

About the Book

Buy it here.

From childhood on, we’re barraged by messages that it’s sad to be old. That wrinkles are embarrassing, and old people useless. Author and activist Ashton Applewhite believed them too—until she realized where this prejudice comes from and the damage it does. Lively, funny, and deeply researched, This Chair Rocks traces Applewhite’s journey from apprehensive boomer to pro-aging radical, and in the process debunks myth after myth about late life. The book explains the roots of ageism—in history and in our own age denial—and how it divides and debases, examines how ageist myths and stereotypes cripple the way our brains and bodies function, looks at ageism in the workplace and the bedroom, exposes the cost of the all-American myth of independence, critiques the portrayal of olders as burdens to society, describes what an all-age-friendly world would look like, and concludes with a rousing call to action. Whether you’re older or hoping to get there, this book will shake you by the shoulders, cheer you up, make you mad, and change the way you see the rest of your life. Age pride!

Wow. This book totally rocks. It arrived on a day when I was in deep confusion and sadness about my age—62. Everything about it, from my invisibility to my neck. Within four or five wise, passionate pages, I had found insight, illumination and inspiration. I never use the word empower, but this book has empowered me.

ANNE LAMOTT, New York Times best-selling author

Along comes Ashton Applewhite with a book we have been waiting for. Anti-ageism now boasts a popular champion, activist, and epigrammatist in the lineage of Martial and Dorothy Parker. Until This Chair Rocks we haven’t had a single compact book that blows up myths seven to a page like fireworks.

LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS

Vibrant, energetic, fact-filled and funny, This Chair Rocks is a call to arms not just for older people but for our whole society.

KATHA POLLITT, poet, essayist, and Nation columnist

Sometimes a writer does us all a great favor and switches on a light. Snap! The darkness vanishes and, in its place we find an electric vision of new ways of living. I want to live in a world where ageism is just a memory, and This Chair Rocks illuminates the path.

DR. BILL THOMAS, founder of Changing Aging

This Chair Rocks is radical, exuberant, and full of all sorts of facts that erase many of the myths and beliefs about late life. As Applewhite defines and describes ageism, new ways of seeing and being in the world emerge, empowering everyone to see things as they really are.

LAURIE ANDERSON, artist

A knowledgeable, straight-talking, and witty book that briskly explains to anyone how-wrong-we-are-about-aging. There’s radical news here to enlighten the most “done” starlet, and
tart turns of phrase to captivate the most expert age critic: ‘All aging is “successful”—not just the sporty version—otherwise you’re dead.’ This pithy primer ought ideally to be given to every American adolescent—to inoculate them against the lies and stereotypes that can spoil the long life course they will all want.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette, author of Aged by Culture and the prize-winning Agewise and Declining to Decline

Ashton Applewhite is a visionary whose time has come, tackling one of the most persistent biases of our day with originality, verve, and humor. Her magic formula of naming and shaming may just shake all of us out of complacency and it into action. Whether you relate through being older now or recognize that aging is in your future, this is one of the most important books you’ll ever read.

Marc Freedman, CEO of Encore.org and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Life Stage Before Midlife

A smart and stirring call to add ageism to the list of ‘isms’ that divide us, and to mobilize against it. Applewhite shows how ageism distorts our view of old age, and urges us to challenge age- based prejudices in ourselves and in society. An important wake-up call for any baby boomer who’s apprehensive about growing old.

Pepper Schwartz, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington and AARP’s Official Love & Relationship Ambassador

Smart, sassy and oh so wise.

AARP

Finally, a take-down of the last acceptable prejudice. Applewhite eloquently and expertly exposes the structural discrimination that makes growing older so much harder than it should be—not just for the white, affluent, healthy, and able-bodied, but for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and poor people. Full of treasures, This Chair Rocks should be required reading for everyone in aging services, to help us confront ageism in our personal and professional lives and join forces against it. As Applewhite writes, ‘It’s time for Age Pride.’ 

Donna Corrado, Commissioner, NYC Department for the Aging

An eloquent and well-researched exposé of the prejudice that feeds age bias, and a passionate argument to mobilize against it. This must-read book is also a fun-read for every age.

Stephanie Coontz, author, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

To live agefully – what a wonderful word! With warmth, wit and clarity, Ashton Applewhite explains what it means, while never falling into age-denial or age-shame. This is a book packed with provocative and liberating ideas, to make you leap into the air with pleasure – even if your knees, like mine, are a little dodgy.

Anne Karpf, author of How to Age


Blog

The current moment: what’s ageism got to do with it?

I wake these days remembering that something awful has happened. Reality assembles itself, and I feel worse. The multicultural, egalitarian, globalized society I hope to inhabit is under assault. Bigotry is ascendant. Racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance—pick your prejudice!—are sanctioned, even celebrated. How do we respond to attacks on those most vulnerable? How does the mission to build a movement against ageism fit into this historical moment?

Until I thought hard about it, just posing that last question felt self-indulgent. Why insist on adding another “ism” to the list when so many higher-profile forms of discrimination, racism in particular, rightfully demand bandwidth? Should ageism move to the back of the line, until Medicare is in the crosshairs at least? Here’s the thing. We don’t have to choose. It’s not a competition. And it’s not zero sum. All forms of discrimination intersect with and compound each other. The flip side is that when we make a community a better place in which to be from somewhere else, to worship a different god, to have a disability or be non-white or non-rich, we also make it a better place in which to grow old.

Ageism is the perfect target for collective advocacy because it affects everyone. That very attribute, its universal nature, means that we undermine ageism when people of all ages show up for stuff. It’s that basic. The vital task is for each of us—youngers and olders alike—to join whatever struggle matters most to us in the days ahead. Stand up and step out—into the community, the classroom, the courts, the town squares.

Age-integrating the struggles ahead means coming to grips with our own internalized ageism, the voices that whisper “too old” or “too young,” that make us complicit in our own marginalization. At times there may be good reasons to sit tight, but age alone is not one of them. Only when each of us rejects this culture’s ageist script can we play the roles for which we were born—and we were all born for this time. Every stage of life has its strengths, from physical resilience to historical perspective, and we are strongest when we collaborate. If everyone in a group is the same age, whether 17 or 70 and whether its focus is on carbon emissions or hate speech, it will be less creative and less effective. We are stronger together in the streets as well. Olders are more vulnerable physically, but less likely to be victims of violence or seen as threats. Let’s change that. Let’s share the risk.

Standing together—whether in front of a mosque or a clinic or an encampment or a bank—undermines stereotypes and builds solidarity. We are all old or future old, and Joining forces across our years offers a unifying cause in these divided times. We add ageism to the list of “isms” we will not tolerate—implicitly, because all ages show up, and explicitly, because we insist upon it. Dismantling ageism changes from aspirational goal to certain outcome. We move organically towards a society where young and old, gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor all have a voice and a path. We have no other option, because we’re going to need all hands on deck—and because the possibility for radical social change has never been greater.

 

"We're what we do, not what we no longer do."

In preparation for a panel on November 29 at the Brooklyn Historical Society on “Old Myths: Confronting Aging and Ageism,” the organizers asked what each panelist would like to focus on. John Leland writes marvelously about aging for the New York Times, and every word of his eloquent answer rang true to me:

I'd like to talk about the myth that some people lead a full and happy life in old age, and some become frail and disabled, as if these were mutually exclusive categories. The truth is that many people who are frail and disabled lead full and happy lives, doing what all of us do at all stages of life: adjusting our lives to our capacities. This myth used to go by the name of “successful aging,” with the unstated codicil that there was “unsuccessful aging.” We don't define ourselves by our disabilities in old age any more than we do when we're younger. Yet parts of society, and maybe social science, tend to define people that way. We're what we do, not what we no longer do. 

 The corollary to this myth is the belief that if I can't do the things I do now, life isn't worth living. It's an obvious fallacy—people all over the world live worthwhile lives without doing whatever it is that you do—but it remains pervasive. 

 One thing uniting these two myths is a view of old age as a postscript tacked on at the end of life, rather than a continuation of what came before. But it's a stage of life like any other, and we make decisions about how we want to live and who we are. It comes with more experience than previous stages, possibly more wisdom, less stress, and greater satisfaction from small rewards. As at previous stages, we have ways to make it richer or less rich—live with purpose, express gratitude, be generous—and unlike previous stages, it's free of delusions that we'll be happy if we get a better job or appease our terrible boss or get that new house.

This is a wonderful example of how those of us who think deeply about aging from a humanist perspective arrive at similar conclusions—the notion that ageism is discrimination against our own future selves, for example. I say that anyone who wakes up in the morning is aging successfully, and take issue with the class bias inherent in the term “successful aging.” (More here—question #6—about why I dislike the term so heartily.)  And I often quote geriatrician Bill Thomas’s take on what Leland calls "the belief that if I can't do the things I do now, life isn't worth living.”  In his book Second Wind, Thomas calls it the “tyranny of ‘still’—the delusion that as long as we’re still running up the stairs, or dating younger women, or whatever our “still” happens to be, we can stop the clock—as if that would be a good thing.

Leland’s book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make and Other Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old, will be out next year. (The title echoes a key finding of another age scholar, Karl Pillemer, in his Legacy Project: Happiness is a choice,a matter of personal agency, not a condition.) I look forward to reading it, and to meeting him and the other panelists soon. Ellen Cole, co-creator of 70 Candles, will be focusing on ageism in the workplace; Dr. Ronnie LoFaso, a geriatrician at Weill Cornell Medical center will talk about ageism as a women’s issue; Paula Span, “New Old Age” columnist for The New York Times, will be moderating; and I’ll be tackling as many myths as I can squeeze in.

 

Influencer of the Year!

Last week the PBS site Next Avenue announced its 2016 list of 50 Influencers in Aging. The people on it are remarkable, so it was an incredible honor to not only join them but be named the Influencer of the Year. (Last year's was Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal; here's a post about why his work is so important.) "Influencer of the Year" is a pretty great title, but what it represents is even more exciting: mainstream acknowledgement that if we want to improve conditions for olders in any domain, it's time to confront ageism. Further corroboration: fully 25% of the other influencers—including Becca Levy and Jay Olshansky, both of whose research I have long relied upon—also named ageism as their top priority.

The list makes good browsing. Each candidate was asked to answer this question: If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be? I wrote, "Help catalyze a social movement to raise awareness of ageism that would transform the experience of aging in America by making discrimination on the basis of age as unacceptable as racism and sexism. We would no longer see aging as a problem to be 'fixed' or a disease to be 'cured,' but for what it is: a powerful, natural, lifelong process that connects us all."

Bio

 

I didn’t set out to become a writer. I went into publishing because I loved to read and didn’t have any better ideas. I had a weakness for the kind of jokes that make you cringe and guffaw at the same time, my boss kept telling me to write them down, and the collection turned into the best-selling paperback of 1982. I was a clue on “Jeopardy” (“Who is the author of Truly Tasteless Jokes?” Answer: “Blanche Knott.”), and as Blanche made publishing history by occupying four of the fifteen spots on the New York Times bestseller list.

My first serious book, Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well, was published by HarperCollins in 1997. Ms. magazine called it “rocket fuel for launching new lives,” and it landed me on Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum enemies list. It also got me invited to join the board of the nascent Council on Contemporary Families, a group of distinguished family scholars. I belonged to the Artist’s Network of Refuse & Resist group that originated the anti-Iraq-invasion slogan and performance pieces titled “Our Grief is Not a Cry for War.” As a contributing editor of IEEE Spectrum magazine, I went to Laos to cover a village getting internet access via a bicycle-powered computer. Since 2000 I’ve been on staff at the American Museum of Natural History, where I write about everything under the Sun.

The catalyst for Cutting Loose was puzzlement: why was our notion of women’s lives after divorce (visualize depressed dame on barstool) so different from the happy and energized reality? A similar question gave rise to This Chair Rocks: why is our view of late life so unrelievedly grim when the lived reality is so different? I began blogging about aging and ageism in 2007 and started speaking on the subject in July, 2012, which is also when I started the Yo, Is This Ageist? blog. During that time I’ve been recognized by the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism and named as a Fellow by the Knight Foundation, the New York Times, Yale Law School, and the Royal Society for the Arts; I’ve written for Harper’s, Playboy, and many other publications, and I speak widely, at venues that have ranged from universities and community centers to the Library of Congress and the United Nations. In 2016, I joined the PBS site Next Avenue’s annual list of 50 Influencers in Aging as their Influencer of the Year. My book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, was published in March, 2016.

Yo, Is This Ageist?

(Go ahead, ask me.)

There’s more.

Appearances

Part monologue and part consciousness-raiser, This Chair Rocks: How Ageism Warps Our View of Long Life is a 40-minute talk that uses stories and statistics to dispel myth after myth about late life. It’s fierce and funny, and it changes the way people envision their futures. (Clip here.) Let’s Rock This Chair: Say No to Ageism is a shorter and more activism-oriented talk that shows how ageism makes aging in America so much harder than it has to be. I also speak about the medicalization of old age, ageism and elder abuse, and the effects of ageism on women’s lives.

What People Are Saying:

I was encouraged by the statistics you quoted, forced to acknowledge my own ageist thoughts, and ultimately fired up to fight them in myself and others. You are on to something big!

Sarah Meredith, painter

Why can’t we stop ageism? Good question. For some answers, start looking in the mirror and look around you. For a good dialogue on the subject, visit Ashton Applewhite’s website, This Chair Rocks.

Harry R. Moody, Director of Academic Affairs, AARP

Consciousness-raising at its sharpest and most useful.

David Watts Barton, journalist and playwright

This Chair Rocks confirms our knowledge that emotional well being is abundant in later life, challenges us to face our own internalized ageism, and inspires us to envision a future in which our society is released from age-related prejudice and discrimination. And it’s fun, too!

Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York

Holistic, deep, urgent, and also fun.

Lenelle Moise, playwright and performer

All practitioners working with older adults need to be informed about the pernicious influences of ageism. Nobody does this better than Ashton Applewhite. Her thinking is deep, her passion infectious, and her cogent message is spot on: we urgently need to have a national conversation about ageism to raise awareness about it and to stop it.

Risa Breckman, LCSW, Executive Director, NYC Elder Abuse Center

You have found a fantastic mission: raising consciousness that older is far better than the stereotype that enslaves us all.

Jennifer Siebens, producer, CBS News

Ashton Applewhite’s plenary address at the 2013 New York State Adult Abuse Training Institute was compelling and original, and really resonated with our 400 participants. She is an articulate and committed voice for an important cause: challenging the demoralizing shadow that ageism casts across society.

Jean Callahan, Director, Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging

Octogenarians are the fastest-growing segment of our population, yet most Americans are scared stiff at the prospect of growing old. [Applewhite’s work] is a welcome and important tonic.

Dr. Robert Butler, founding director of the National Institute on Aging, coiner of the term “ageism”

We need an anti-ageist movement, for sure. Ashton is already in it.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette, author of Agewise and Aged by Culture

A beautifully delivered, provocative description of how ageism clouds our vision of what life holds in store.

Sabrina Hamilton, director, Ko Festival for the Arts

Ashton Applewhite is on a crusade. A journalist and author, her mission is to raise awareness of ageism in America and get people young and old to join her in speaking out against it.

Senior Planet

Thank you again for your terrific keynote yesterday. I heard from so many attendees that it affected them deeply. You are wise, funny, and provocative – a great combination!

Teresa Bonner, Program Director, Aroha Philanthropies

Upcoming Appearances

keynote, Retirement Reimagined conference

Where: Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, New Jersey

When: December 9, 2016 11:00 am

More info: Open to the public; link here.

keynote, Nat'l Assoc of Senior Move Managers annual conference

Where: Indianapolis, IN

When: March 10, 2017 09:00 am

More info:

talk at Chatham College

Where: Pittsburgh, PA

When: March 29, 2017 12:00 am

More info:

Founders Lecture & Luncheon, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Where: Penn State York, York PA

When: May 3, 2017 03:00 pm

More info:

Keynote, National Inst. of Senior Centers national conference

Where: Oak Brook, Illinois

When: June 15, 2017 09:00 am

More info:


Past Appearances

Media

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“Yo, Is This Ageist? with Ashton Applewhite

video interview with the Wisdom Factory

November 18, 2016

Watch here.

next-avenue-influencer

Ashton Applewhite: Influencer of the Year: The revolution against ageism begins now

October 26, 2016

Listen here.

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Interview on United Nations Radio

October 12, 2016

Listen here.

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Interview on Gracefully Radio

October 7, 2016

Listen here.

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Spirit of Success for Business — Applewhite Explains the Dangers of Age Bias

October 4, 2016

Listen here.

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Interview on Retiree Rebels: Ditch the Rocking Chair podcast

October 2, 2016

Listen here.

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Interview on City Channel Four, Iowa City, Iowa

September 30, 2016

Watch here.

living juicy

Interview on Living Juicy, radio show from Santa Fe on KSFR

September 29, 2016

Listen to it here.

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Interview on KERA, the NPR station for Dallas-Fort Worth

September 26, 2016

Listen here.

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Interview on Boomers Rock radio show

August 15, 2016

Listen to it here.

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“Three Must-Read Books on Getting Old”

Huffington Post

August 11, 2016

Read it here.

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Must-Read Books for the Dog Days of Summer

NextAvenue

August 11, 2016

Read it here.

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Review in AgeWise (King County, WA)

August 1, 2016

Read it here.

maggie kuhn and i

Maggie Kuhn & I . . . and Ashton Applewhite

two-part feature on The Best Is Yet to Be blog

July 9, 2016

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

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Interview on ElderCulture radio

June 9, 2016

Episode 49, listen here.

montclair

Interview on NorthJersey.com

May 23, 2016

Read here.

society pages

Interview with The Council on Contemporary Families

May 10, 2016

Read here.

henwood

Left Media News from Doug Henwood

April 28, 2016

Listen here — my bit starts at 28:36.

Cardinshow

Interview on the Joy Cardin Show, Wisconsin Public Radio
How Ageism is a Form of Oppression

April 8, 2016

Listen here.

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Interview on the Senior Rehab Podcast

April 4, 2016

Listen here.

Washington Post 29 March 2016

Profile in the Washington Post

March 29, 2016

Link here.

San Diego

Movement seeks to redefine what it means to age in America

March 28, 2016

Interview in San Diego Union. Link here.

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An interview with EngAge’s Tim Carpenter on his Experience Talks radio show.

March 20, 2016

Link here.

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Why I’m Not Ray, or How I came to Write a Manifesto Against Ageism

March 16, 2016

Excerpt published in MidCentury Modern on Medium. Link here.

Next Avenue

How to Swap Ageism for Age Pride

March 11, 2016

Interview with Marci Alboher on Next Avenue. Link here.

3 Ways to Combat Ageism

January 14, 2016

Interview on Real Women on Health radio show. Listen here.

Awakin Call with Anti-Ageism Crusader Ashton Applewhite

December 19, 2015

A weekly hour-long call where “inspiring change makers” talk candidly about their journeys. Listen here.

Revealed: The World’s 100 Most Inspiring Women

November 16, 2015

Article in Salt Magazine. My entry here.

Ageism: A Call to Awareness*

October 30, 2015

Article in the Huffington Post. Read it here.

Aging Well: Is It Mind Over Matter?

October 27, 2015

Interview on Minnesota Public Radio News with Kerri Miller. Listen here.

How I Became an Old Person in Training

October 22, 2015

Article in Generations, the journal of the American Society on Aging. Read it here.

To Age Well, Change How You Feel About Aging

October 19, 2015

Feature quoting me in the Wall Street Journal. Read it here.

Some Car Ads Taking Shots at Older Drivers

October 10, 2015

NPR’s Weekend Edition. Listen here.

“Is Ageism the Last Bias?”

September 1, 2015

Essay in Playboy magazine. Read it here.

“the Imperator Furiosa of anti-ageism”

July 3, 2015

Interview on Changing Aging blog. Read it here.

“An Age-Old Dilemma for Women” – New York Times

June 27, 2015

Read it here.

article in S Moda magazine (Condé Nast+El Pais, Spain)

March 22, 2015

Read it here.

interview in Fifty Plus Advocate

February 25, 2015

Read it here.

the Grand Valley Lanthorn covers the 10th Annual Art & Science of Aging Conferece

February 15, 2015

Read the article here.

interview on HuffPost50

January 6, 2015

Read it here.

“Much Abides”—interview on Virtual Memories podcast

October 20, 2014

Listen here.

interview on Wiser With Age

June 25, 2014

Read it here.

on NPR’s Morning Edition, about “silver tsunami”

May 19, 2014

Listen here.

interview on Ramsey Bahrawy television show

January 22, 2014

Watch here.

interview for David Norris newsletter

October 15, 2013

Link here.

interview on Pia Louise’s Living Portraits radio show

October 28, 2013

Listen here.

Profile on NextAvenue.com

October 24, 2013

Link here.

interview on Maria Sanchez radio show

September 16, 2013

Listen here.

interview on Anything Goes radio show

July 18, 2013

Listen here (19:40 to 30:00)

NYC Elder Abuse Center podcast

June 4, 2013

Listen here

interview on C-realm podcast

May 8, 2013

Episode 361 – This Chair Rocks

interview in California Health Report

March 17, 2013

Link here.

“Writer-Activist Ashton Applewhite” – interview with Senior Planet

October 2, 2013

Link here.

Girl With Pen

June 30, 2012

Link here.

Resources

Tools

Who me, ageist? How to start a consciousness-raising group

download PDF here

HelpAge International also makes two guides available:

 

Books

  • Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older Persons by Todd D. Nelson (Boston: MIT Press, 2002)
  • Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America by Margaret Morganroth Gullette. (University of Chicago Press, 2011)
  • Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond by Meika Loe. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • The Denial of Aging: Perpetual Youth, Eternal Life, and Other Dangerous Fantasies by Muriel R. Gillick (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006)
  • The Fountain of Age by Betty Friedan. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993)
  • How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Growing Old by Marc E. Agronin (New York: Da Capo Press, 2011)
  • How to Age by Anne Karpf (Macmillan, 2014)
  • A Long Bright Future by Laura Carstensen (New York: Broadway Books, 2009)
  • Learning to Be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging by Margaret Cruikshank (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009)
  • Look Me In the Eye: Old Women, Aging, and Ageism by Barbara Macdonald with Cynthia Rich (San Francisco: Spinsters Book Company, 1991)
  • Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older by Wendy Lustbader (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011)
  • The Longevity Revolution by Robert N. Butler (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008)
  • Naked At Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex by Joan Price (Berkeley: Seal Press, 2011)
  • Overcoming Age Discrimination in Employment by Patricia Barnes (2016)
  • Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life by Bill Thomas (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014)
  • Treat Me, Not My Age: A Doctor’s Guide to Getting the Best Care as You or a Loved One Gets Older by Mark Lachs (New York: Penguin Books, 2011)
  • Women in Late Life: Critical Perspectives on Gender and Age by Martha Holstein (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

These books helped me understand ageism. You can find a list of the best books on aging compiled by Changing Aging here and another good list compiled by Ronnie Bennett here.

Reports

Links

Video

Keynote address at the United Nations
6 October 2016:

On Vimeo:

On YouTube:

What Is Ageism?

Ageism is stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. We experience it any time someone assumes that we’re “too old” for something—a task, a haircut, a relationship—instead of finding out who we are and what we’re capable of. Or “too young;” ageism cuts both ways, although in a youth-obsessed society olders bear the brunt of it.

Like racism and sexism, ageism serves a social and economic purpose: to legitimize and sustain inequalities between groups. It’s not about how we look. It’s about how people in power assign meaning to how we look.

Stereotyping—the assumption that all members of a group are the same—underlies ageism (as it does all “isms”). Stereotyping is always a mistake, but especially when it comes to age, because the older we get, the more different from one another we become.

Attitudes about age—as well as race and gender—start to form in early childhood. Over a lifetime they harden into a set of truths: “just the way it is.” Unless we challenge ageist stereotypes—Old people are incompetent. Wrinkles are ugly. It’s sad to be old—we feel shame and embarrassment instead of taking pride in the accomplishment of aging. That’s internalized ageism.

By blinding us to the benefits of aging and heightening our fears, ageism makes growing older far harder than it has to be. It damages our sense of self, segregates us, diminishes our prospects, and actually shortens lives.

What are the antidotes?

  •    Awareness: the critical starting point is to acknowledge our own prejudices about age and aging. (Download a copy of Who me, Ageist? How to Start a Consciousness Raising Group.) Then we can start to see that “personal problems”—such as not being able to get a job or being belittled or feeling patronized—are actually widely shared social problems that require collective action.
  •    Integration: connect with people of all ages. An equitable society for all ages requires intergenerational collaboration.
  •    Activism: watch for ageist behaviors and attitudes in and around us, challenge them, and create language and models that support every stage of life.

Contact

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