Writer and movie reviewer D.M Anderson is also a middle-aged heavy-metal fan – the latter uneasily, as he describes in An Essay on Ageism (nominally a review of Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi vehicle, Edge of Tomorrow).“As much as I’d still love seeing my favorite bands live, more often than not, I choose not to attend,” Anderson writes.
I’ve been part of the Council on Contemporary Families since it was founded 20 years ago to provide solid social science about American families to the press and the public. My post about the latest Census Report on older Americans is up now on their Families As They Really Are blog on the Society Pages site:
I’m not an Elmer’s-glue-and-glitter grandmother, but I’ll read to my grandchildren till my voice gives out. Lindsey McDivitt knows there are lots of people out there like me, and that children’s books are a great way to bridge generations and combat ageism in the process. We met online and then had the pleasure of meeting in person in Ann Arbor when I was on the Second Wind Tour last week.
One of the nice “keep up the good work” responses to my mass email last week came from my friend Robin. Her note went on to say that, “Even my mom, who just died at 95, wasn't an ‘old lady.’ Up until the last few days she really fought like a tiger . . . until her body just gave out. She simply died of old age.” She had lived with debilitating arthritis that set in in her late 40s, and “found a lot of meaning knitting baby items endlessly for the City of Hope and other charities.” Female, in her ninth decade, yet not an old lady?
Ageism in Silicon Valley has been all over the news lately. The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled “Silicon Valley's Youth Problem.” Male engineers in their twenties are getting botox and hair transplants before key interviews. “The Brutal Ageism of Tech,” a feature story in the New Republic, described a swelling cohort of “highly trained, objectively talented, surpassingly ambitious workers” sidelined “for reasons no one can rationally explain.”
Disability rights activist Simi Linton’s memoir, My Body Politic, shook up my thinking on topics ranging from sex to suicide, and got me comparing ableism and ageism. We act as though old people aren't disabled and disabled people never grow old, despite the fact that one third of disabled Americans are sixty-five or older, and that the same medical advances that have swelled the number of people with disabilities are keeping more and more of the rest of us alive long enough to join their ranks.
Every speaker on the tour gets a two-page spread in a fat print program. Some entries are formal, others touchy-feely. Mine’s below. How refreshing not to have to soft-pedal my bio or my politics; the choice of the pull quote (in bold) was theirs.
In October 2010, demographer Philip Longman warned of a “’gray tsunami’ sweeping the planet." The phrase summons a frankly terrifying vision of a giant wave of old people looming on the horizon, poised to drain the public coffers, swamp the healthcare system, and suck the wealth of future generations out to sea. Journalists jumped on it, and “gray tsunami” has since become widely adopted shorthand for the socioeconomic threat posed by an aging population.