I’m used to being the first person in the room, and often the only person, to mention ageism. A few years ago, charged with wrapping up a one-day seminar on “The Politics of Aging” at the Columbia Journalism School, I let my frustration get the better of me and opened my summary with, “You can no more talk about the politics of aging without mentioning ageism than you can talk about the experience of being black without mentioning racism.” Things were very different at two conferences this week.
The first, called BOOM–Celebrating the Upside of Aging, was “an entire day devoted to helping adults 50 and over explore the possibilities of ‘what’s next.’” Held in Denver on Saturday, October 3, it was the brainchild of Barbara Raynor, Managing Director of Boomers Leading Change in Health, which sponsored the event. I didn’t have to wait long, because Barbara brought up the importance of challenging ageism in her opening remarks (soon to appear as a Guest Post). Introducing my closing plenary, she explained that her “aha moment” had been my Ignite presentation at the Encore.org conference in Phoenix last fall. That’s one of the things that makes what I’m doing so gratifying. Once people get the message—that we can’t make the most of longer lives, personally or professionally, until we challenge structural discrimination in society—they really get it. And there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.
The theme was also front and center in Minneapolis on October 6, at Artful aging – the transformative power of creativity, a one-day event sponsored by Aroha Philanthropies that brought practitioners and funders together. The event was all about arts and olders, whether funding arts programs or training art teachers or creating multigenerational artists’ colonies, whether drumming or painting or acting or singing. It’s a joyful and important mandate. Aging organizations are just beginning to pay attention to the physical, emotional, and social benefits of engagement in the arts for olders and for their communities. What’s the biggest hurdle to getting a movement going? Ageism. Evidence below, and that list went up before my opening keynote, “Yes to Aging, No to Ageism. I’m hoping it’s a trend.