I’m an Age Boom veteran, having attended a number of these enormously helpful seminars for journalists over the years. So it was gratifying to move to the other side of the podium yesterday at an Age Boom seminar on the “Politics of Aging.” Co-sponsored by the Columbia Journalism School and the Mailman School of Public Health, it was designed to connect reporters and editors covering health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security with experts in the field. Wonky, yes, but important and interesting.
Assigned the topic of “Reframing the National Conversation About Living Longer Lives,” I was the wrap-up speaker. I did my homework, reviewing my notes about the difficulty of galvanizing that conversation and integrating quotes from the speakers who preceded me. When my turn came, I pointed out that I was the first one to mention ageism. That it is integral to the politics of aging: “As surely as racism affects the experience of being black in America and sexism the experience of being a woman and homophobia the experience of being gay, ageism affects the experience of growing old.” That because it’s denigrating, ageism provokes ambivalence. That that ambivalence is what makes it so hard to galvanize a national conversation. And that journalists needed to take aim at it, because if we’re squeamish about facing our private prejudices, how we can expect more from our public institutions?
Applause. Wonderful feedback from journalists, like a woman from AARP who wrote, “Your “wrap-up” was brilliant and truly brought it all together for me.” An email waiting for me from the organizer at the Journalism School inviting me to lead a segment at the next Age Boom seminar. And back-and-forth with various people at the Mailman School about when they can hear my talk, which has a new title: This Chair Rocks: How Ageism Warps Our View of Longer Lives.