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Does Ageism in America Need a Movement?

Leigh Ann Hubbard April 9, 2018

Given the emergence of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, is an anti-ageism movement next?

Some activists say ageism in America should be the next movement. In fact, they wonder why it hasn’t happened already, considering how many people ageism affects (think of all those boomers and millennials behind them). A manifesto and declaration are even ready to go. Next comes the uprising?

So, what do you think? What, if anything, can recent movements teach us about ageism activism? Is awareness leading toward a watershed movement behind ageism in America? Or, are we taking the anti-ageism movement too far?

Headlines & Insights: Curated excerpts from though-provoking articles.

1. Baby Boomers Are Taking on Ageism—and Losing
The Washington Post / Lydia DePillis

“Our generation was pretty spoiled,” says [Dale] Kleber, 60. “We had it good. The economy was in a huge growth spurt. Some dips here and there, but nothing severe.” But a couple of years ago, Kleber hit a roadblock. He’d left [his work] and started looking for another job; he and his wife didn’t have quite enough saved to retire comfortably. He didn’t think he’d have trouble finding work.

Scores of applications later, with few callbacks and no offers, Kleber is close to admitting defeat — and admitting that age discrimination might be one of the biggest challenges his generation has faced.

2. Let’s Create a Mass Movement Against Ageism!
Sixty and Me / Margaret Manning

[Ashton Applewhite:] The tool that catalyzed the women’s movement was consciousness raising… [W]omen came together and realized that what they had been considering personal problems—they were frustrated at work or their lives didn’t have a purpose or their children weren’t blond enough or their boobs weren’t big enough or whatever it was—were not personal problems.

This is the very similar to what we think now: “My chin isn’t what it used to be,” or, “I can’t get a raise.” These are not personal problems; these are widely shared political problems that require collective action. If it calls to you, start a consciousness raising group, get together and talk about your attitudes towards ageing. Ultimately, that will bring you to the next step, which is to look at where these messages come from and what purpose they serve.

3. Why Ageism Never Gets Old
The New Yorker / Tad Friend

Ageism is so hard to root out because it allows us to ward off a paralyzing fact with a pleasing fiction. It lets us fool ourselves, for a time, into believing that we’ll never die. It’s not a paradox that ageists are dissing their future selves—it’s the whole point of the exercise.

4. It’s Time to Believe Older Adults, Too
ChangingAging.org / Jeanette Leardi

Like sexual abuse, [age-related abuse and neglect] are traumatic and often go underreported by victims because of the fear of not being believed and/or of a resulting retaliation for speaking out. Often an older adult’s complaints may be dismissed as the ravings of an incompetent mind—thus adding personal degradation to the process.

Given all this, tell us what you think about ageism in America in the comments below.

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Leigh Ann Hubbard

Leigh Ann Hubbard is a freelance journalist specializing in aging, health, the American South and Alaska.

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