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Mainstream and Multigenerational: A New Approach to Anti-Ageism

Susan Donley February 21, 2019

Something remarkable and unexpected happened last week. The mainstream digital media site for young women, Refinery29 dedicated a day of content to stories on ageism. Dubbed Refinery59, the initiative was part of a partnership with AARP.

Blink and you’d miss it, but this one-day media stunt represents a promising approach to fighting ageism: making it multi-generational and mainstream.

We’ve reported on growing grassroots efforts and longevity industry initiatives designed to combat ageism. The Boomer generation’s tendency toward social activism and redefining life stages make them prime candidates to lead on this issue. But ageism is deeply embedded in our culture and society and it’s clear that no one approach will suffice if we want real change now.

An Approach With Substance and Style

If you haven’t seen Refinery59 (and it’s parent initiative called Life Begins At), then you may be surprised by its look and feel. This is aging content that’s dressed to kill with modern graphics, bold colors and click-worthy headlines.

mainstream ageism

A stylistic approach like this is a breath of fresh air at a time when older people are portrayed most often as bland (at best) and longevity issues are part of a “silver tsunami.” It’s no wonder that 61 percent of women don’t feel represented in media.

The content itself is a mix of Refinery29 editorial and AARP sponsored articles—and there’s something for a range of women. In addition to the main landing page and initiative raison d’etre, It’s Time To Change The Conversation Around Aging, here are just a few of the headlines:

mainstream ageism

Taraji P. Henson Is Going To Break The Ageism Glass Ceiling
After countless roles on the big and small screen, and with her 50th birthday approaching, the actress says there’s so much left for her to do.

mainstream ageism

Stop Telling Me What To Do With My Gray Hair
In a culture that pressures people to cover their grays, four women explain why they’re ditching the dye and embracing life’s silver lining.

mainstream ageism

I’m 54 & Single & This Year I Finally Embraced Solo Travel
Self care is not just about relishing your routine.

mainstream ageism

Why We Need To Get Rid Of These Toxic, Outdated Labels
As much as we may choose to ignore it, labels are constantly being forced upon us. 

One Size Does Not Fits All

Refinery29 describes its audience of young women as “determined dreamers who are smart and passionate, always seeking out the full potential in every aspect of their lives.” Refinery59 clearly reflects that psychographic profile; it’s not intended to resonate with everyone.

Just as older people cannot fight ageism alone (even with longevity market advocates by their side), no single initiative can awaken all younger people to its impact. This fact is only more evidence that anti-ageism efforts need to broaden messages and recruit new advocates to build a society that embraces and celebrates aging. AARP’s Refinery29 take-over seeks to do just that.

This isn’t the first effort to engage younger people in issues that traditionally have been the territory of the “older adult.” LeadingAge and The SCAN Foundation have both launched campaigns designed to connect with younger caregivers.

The most effective campaigns and media aren’t one sit fits all. Anti-ageism efforts can’t be either. 

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Susan Donley

Susan Donley is Publisher and CEO of Stria. She is dedicated to improving the lives of older people through powerful media and communications. Previously Susan served as Publisher and Managing Director of PBS's Next Avenue.

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