Blacks at the back of the bus. Women in the kitchen. Gays in the closet. For most of American history, until movements came along that changed things, that was “just the way things are.”
That’s still the way it is when it comes to getting older in America. Aging is seen as failure. Discrimination is pervasive. Stereotypes—Old people are incompetent. Wrinkles are ugly. It’s sad to be old—go unchallenged. When we assimilate those beliefs over a lifetime, often unconsciously, we feel shame and embarrassment instead of taking pride in the accomplishment of aging. That’s internalized ageism.
Confronting ageism means replacing those ageist stereotypes and stories with more nuanced and accurate ones.
That won’t happen without a mass shift of consciousness.
That shift, like all social movements, begins within each of us.
Change yourself, change the world, as the saying goes. Or as Gandhi put it, “Be the change you wish to see in the world. I’m no Gandhi, and I catch myself being ageist all time—like just yesterday, when I wondered why we hadn’t invited more our-age friends to a party co-hosted by a younger friend. We can’t challenge bias unless we’re aware of it, and everyone’s biased some of the time.
That’s where consciousness-raising comes in, and why I’ve written a booklet called “Who Me, Ageist?” How To Start Your Own Consciousness-Raising Group.” Consciousness-raising uses the power of personal experiences to unpack unconscious prejudices and to call for social change. Participants tell and compare their stories. In the process, they learn that “personal problems”—such as not being able to get a job, being patronized, or feeling sidelined—are actually widely shared political problems, and that feelings of inadequacy are actually a result of being discriminated against.By sharing truths, vulnerabilities, and experiences, participants become more aware of how they feel and what forces shape those feelings.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing—whether you want to change the world or simply to accept and embrace your own aging—this first step is yours to take, and this booklet is your tool. I hope you’ll download it, share it, change it, improve it, and add to it. I’ll keep updating the “Anti-Ageism Resources” page, and welcome suggestions for new entries, ground rules, and discussion-starters. It’s a collective work-in-progress.
2 thoughts on “Are you ageist? Download my new consciousness-raising booklet to find out.”
Please check out Advanced Style blog, book and film (on NetFlix). Think it will become part of your arsenal against ageism. It’s about older women who dress up, are active, excited about life and give in to no concepts about how we are supposed to look.
It’s all been declared inspirational and the message is going around the world.
212 799 0566
Greetings Ashton, from downunder, Australia
THANK YOU for your brilliant booklet on consciousness raising, this provides a ‘hands-on’ tool for which I will be applying in my home state of Tasmania. My community voluntary conscious aging project is Soul Work Ensemble.org. Web site to be updated next week.Currently facilitate home circle of wisdom, quarterly newsletter, previously – community awareness. As a creative person try(aged 68 years passionate) to ‘utilise’ resource information, study group material, e-courses [when i can afford them] and altruistically be of service to persons aged fifty and more through local networks and wherever their is a listener! Again, Ashton just wanted to congratulate you on the work you are doing. Yoah!!! Philip2610