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

Guest post: How does ageism affect the rights of all animals? An intersectional critique of the animal rights movement

This post is by Lili Trenkova, who was born and raised in Bulgaria during the final years of communism and has worked as an architectural and environmental designer, scenic artist and fabricator, and an activist for various causes. She lives in Brooklyn with her human partner Raffaella, with whom she founded Collectively Free, a pro-intersectional animal rights community in 2014.

The term "intersectionality" was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and developed by her and other black feminists in the 1970s. They noticed that the Civil Rights movement wasn't addressing gender/women's issues, and the feminist movement wasn't addressing racial issues. Their work offers a lens through which we can view how different forms of oppression intersect and layer over one another to have a compound effect on the people that experience them. At Collectively Free, we explore how oppression of humans also closely relates to that of nonhumans. Given that ageism isn't something often talked about in social movements, we wanted to bring attention to it because it certainly affects many people in our community.

Ageism + Speciesism
Farmed animals such as dairy cows, egg-laying hens and all others raised for their flesh are valued based on how much and how quickly they can “produce”. For example, the younger an animal is when slaughtered, the higher the appeal of their flesh is (“tender”, “juicy”, “delicate”). Alternatively, the consumption of an “old” animal’s flesh invokes disgust (“tough”, “dry”, “chewy”).

This same framework applies to how our current society attributes “usefulness” to us humans based on our age. The younger and more “productive” (or “consumable”) we are, the more valued we are. Once we no longer fit society’s standard, we lose our youth privilege. We are no longer seen as attractive or as proficient at our work.

Ageism + Animal Rights
When we open a vegan brochure, we are most likely met with images of stereotypical able-bodied, youthful, “happy” people (who are also usually white and heteronormative). Veganism is then portrayed as a life-prolonging cure-all, in the same way as “anti-aging” beauty brands market their products, reinforcing the idea that more age equals less beauty, less health, less ability.

When did this narrative take hold in our movement? When mainstream organizations, led primarily by younger white men, claimed the spotlight and turned veganism into a marketing banner. In one of her essays, pro-intersectional animal-rights pioneer Carol J. Adams brings attention to Cleveland Amory, who in 1990 (later proudly quoted by Wayne Pacelle in 2008) labeled the “new” animal rights movement as no longer comprised of “little old ladies in tennis shoes”.

How exactly does ageism manifest in animal rights activism? How often have we marched in a group only to end up separating from folks who may walk slower? How often have we dismissed someone's opinion because they were too “old school” or “too young” and “inexperienced”? And how deeply do we consider our actions’ physical, visual, or auditory accessibility?

 Going Deeper
The addition of sexism only amplifies the effects of ageism. In mainstream “Western” society, older men are often viewed and portrayed (in films, media, etc.) as “wise” and “experienced”. Older women on the other hand are viewed and portrayed as “inadequate” and “burdensome”, even when they have been and continue to be caregivers (to grandchildren, to partners and friends, or to nonhuman animals). This is precisely the reason why Peter Singer is deemed the “father” of the contemporary animal rights movement for his 1975 book, “Animal Liberation”, even though he himself admits that he drew tremendous influence from the 1964 book by Ruth Harrison, “Animal Machines” (the first full exposé on intensive animal farming). Brigid Brophy was another activist and writer whose 1965 Sunday Times essay, “The Rights of Animals” effectively inspired the animal rights movement in the UK. There’s also Rachel Carson and her 1962 book, “Silent Spring”. Not to invalidate Singer, but while he gets credit, women like Harrison, Brophy and Carson have become lumped together as just obscure “little old ladies in tennis shoes”.

As with all oppression, ageism doesn't come down to just how we “feel” about older or younger people. We've built a system that continuously marginalizes and disenfranchises based on age. In gentrifying neighborhoods, older people who live alone are vulnerable to evictions and displacement - especially if they are people of color (+ racism layer). In countries with high poverty rates, it is the younger and able-bodied who flee. Older immigrants have higher risks of being denied refugee or asylum status (+ xenophobia layer). At the other end of the spectrum, children too are routinely denied the status of “human”, including the right to legal representation, forcing them to literally “represent” themselves in immigration court, some as young as three years of age.

Even our beloved companion animals are not immune to ageism. Older dogs and cats - as well as those with disabilities - have significantly lower chances of being adopted from a shelter, and more often than not end up “euthanized.”

Bottom Line
Ageism is rarely discussed, even within activist circles that focus on other forms of oppression. Yet as we’ve seen, ageism too connects closely to other -isms, so we shouldn’t let it slide off our intersectional radars!

How about an ageism-related version of the Bechdel test?

Invented by the sharp American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, a movie passes the Bechdel text if at least two women talk to each other about something other than a man. Low bar, right? Yet surprisingly few movies pass it. I propose the Applewhite test for ageism:  a movie passes if two older people talk to each other about something besides falling apart.

My inspiration was appearing this week as the ageism expert on a panel in Hollywood about bias against older actors in the film industry. Expertly moderated by Sharon Lawrence, the other panelists were actors JoBeth Williams, Lesley Ann Warren and Lynn Whitfield, comedian Kathy Griffin, agent Harlan Boll, and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. I'd expected a fair amount of grandstanding but was instead gratified by the honesty and vulnerability of many of the participants, especially Kathy Griffin, who got a huge laugh by hobbling onstage behind a walker. (Hey, it was funny.) Some of Boll's clients, most of whom fit into the legend/icon category, had forbidden him to mention their ages, or even their names; so strong is the stigma of being even remotely associated with the A-word in the epicenter of youth culture. The event has gotten a lot of media attention, in the Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, and elsewhere, and hopefully is just the start of many larger conversations.

I got to open the discussion with a five-minute presentation about what ageism is and how it works, and closed with a reminder that ageism is a social justice issue, and that when we make the world better to grow old in, we also make it better place to be gay, to be female, to be disabled, to be human. I also got to meet the Lane Twins, Gary and Larry. Go Hollywood!

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNFkcFleXHk[/embedyt]

starred review in Publisher's Weekly!

Big news: the manifesto got a starred review—those are rare— in this week's Publisher's Weekly, the industry's trade magazine. It's been proving very difficult to get a self-published book on the mainstream radar, so this is gratifying.

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Takeaway quote: "[Applewhite's] humor, high-energy writing, and emphasis on positive ways to view and experience age contribute to making this a valuable resource, an agent for social change, and an enjoyable read." Self-publish together to change the world!

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 become a Knight Fellow, a New York Times Fellow, and a fellow at Yale Law School; I’ve written for Harper’s, Playboy, and many other publications; and I’ve been recognized by the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism. In 2015 I was included in a list of 100 inspiring women—along with Arundhati Roy, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Germaine Greer, Naomi Klein, Pussy Riot, and other remarkable activists—who are committed to social change. 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, International Conference on Positive Aging

Where: Capitol Hilton, 1001 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

When: August 26, 2016 09:00 am

More info: Open to the public; register here.

presentation, Certified Senior Advisors conference

Where: Capitol Hilton, 1001 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

When: August 27, 2016 10:45 am

More info: Open to the public; register here.

Book signing at Prairie Lights bookstore

Where: 15 S Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA

When: September 12, 2016 07:00 pm

More info: Free and open to the public.

Reimagine Aging 7th Annual Fundraising Breakfast Sound Generations (formerly Senior Services)

Where: Washington State Convention Center

When: September 14, 2016 08:00 am

More info: Free and open to the public; register here.

Closing Keynote, University of Washington Elder Friendly Futures Conference

Where: Seattle, WA

When: September 16, 2016 02:00 pm

More info: Register here.

Book Reading at Third Place Books

Where: 17171 Bothell Way NE Lake Forest Park, WA 98155

When: September 17, 2016 06:30 pm

More info:

Seattle Speaks with Ashton Applewhite about Age Equality

Where: Cornish Playhouse, Seattle Center

When: September 18, 2016 02:00 pm

More info:

conversation with the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, including local readers sharing favorite passages from the book and a lively Q&A about age bias, where it comes from, and what we can do about it.

plenary, Area Agency on Aging annual conference

Where: Charlotte, NC

When: September 23, 2016 09:00 am

More info:

opening keynote, Deal With It: A Women's Conference

Where: Los Angeles, CA

When: September 25, 2016 09:00 am

More info: Tackling the issues that keep us up all night.

keynote for the 26th International Day of Older Persons at the UN

Where: New York

When: October 6, 2016 10:00 am

More info:

presentation, 2016 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference

Where: St. Paul, MN

When: October 17, 2016 03:30 pm

More info: In partnership with Aroha Philanthropies.

plenary at Village to Village Network Annual Conference

Where: Columbus, Ohio

When: October 18, 2016 11:00 am

More info:

panel discussion, "An Entrepreneur for All Seasons"

Where: Marble Collegiate Church, 1 West 29 th St, NYC

When: October 20, 2016 06:00 pm

More info:

keynote, Aging Well: Building a Community for All Ages

Where: Concordia University, Portland, OR

When: October 29, 2016 10:00 am

More info: Free and open to the public; link here.

"Old Myths" - panel discussion at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Where: 128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn, NY

When: November 29, 2016 06:30 pm

More info: with Dr. Mark Lachs, Ellen Cole & John Leland

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 to register to come.

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

Where: Indianapolis, IN

When: March 10, 2017 09:00 am

More info:


Media

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“Interview on Boomers Rock radio show”

August 15, 2016

Listen to it here.

57adf7641700001400d1e6a4

“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.

unnamed

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.

midcentury modern

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

A Tool

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

download PDF here

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

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.

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