Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fighting Ageism in the Twitter Era (Getting Old Isn't All That Bad)

Photo: Defying negative impact of ageism in America, intergenerational advocates recently met at the Justice In Aging conference in Washington, D.C.

ORLANDO, Fla.--The baby boomers, AKA the nation’s silver tsunami, had better pay as much attention to changing attitudes about aging as they did to shaking up all those previous social norms.
In American culture, old things get replaced with something nice and new: Like the latest smart phone.
Apply the concept to people, and it’s called ageism.

It’s as current as Twitter.

Tweeted Ageist Stereotypes

A team of researchers at Oregon State University took a look at tweets about people with Alzheimer’s disease and found ridicule, stigma and stereotypes.

One unpleasant tweet: “Waiting until your grandparents become senile so you can trick them into giving you their money.”

Ageism came up frequently at November’s 68th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, in Orlando, Fla. The conference brought together science, medical, social science and behavior experts, as well as policy wonks and other researchers.
I was there on a Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society, sponsored by the Archstone Foundation.

Experts from all over the world discussed research into the challenges of the old, the frail and those with dementia.

They talked about minorities and the poor, who, after a lifetime of being disadvantaged in our society, will face particular difficulties as they age, including the need to rely on at-risk safety net and entitlement programs.

Those in the middle class also face poor nutrition in “food deserts” and isolation in their cul-de-sac suburban neighborhoods. Even some retirement communities, built as havens from the hustle and bustle, are less than ideal places to “age in place.”

Yet, the vast majority of Americans say that’s what they want: to stay in their homes.

Boomers Internalize Stereotypes

This is where baby boomers may face their own internalized ageist stereotypes.

Stephen Golant, author of Aging in the Right Place, (Health Professions Press, 2015) said Americans are “repeatedly lectured” about how to “age successfully.” They are told the importance of remaining young in mind and body: To exercise. To eat right. To maintain their homes.

This can be pernicious, he said. It suggests those who are not healthy have only themselves to blame. People guilt-trip themselves even more when the demands of homeownership make them feel like life is spinning out of control.

The perceived stigma of giving up one’s home for a “home” can make life an “emotional battlefield,” Golant said.

Meanwhile, society does its best to accent the negative.

Asked to characterize the aging, some people recorded during on-the-street interviews dredged up cliches about spry retirees on vacation, but most talked about decline, disease, dependency.

“Society isn’t betting on them,” said one man.

The FrameWorks Institute did the interviews as part of its work with eight national aging organizations.

The groups are the Gerontological Society, AARP, American Federation for Aging Research, National Council on Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, American Society on Aging, American Geriatrics Society and Grantmakers in Aging.

New Metaphors for Aging

The goal is to find new metaphors for aging, said FrameWorks CEO Nathaniel Kendall-Taylor.
He said the way information is framed has an impact on how people use the information, which should come as no surprise to those who reframed cultural norms about race, gender, sex, the environment and entertainment.

The baby boomers have a lot at stake, and that includes me. I’m no fan of euphemisms, but I’m all for promoting a fine-wine view of life. It should get better with age. We should feel better about aging.

If some creative wordsmithing and mass marketing helps our society recognize that aging doesn’t diminish value or humanity, it would be a real contribution to our collective understanding of who we boomers are.

Linda Valdez wrote this article for the Arizona Republic, where she is a columnist and editorial writer. She is the author of the new book, Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders (Texas Christian University Press).

Full Article & Source:
Fighting Ageism in the Twitter Era (Getting Old Isn't All That Bad)

1 comment:

Annette said...

Ageism is a real danger to the elderly. We all need to talk more about it and inform people.