“There is also something profoundly liberating about aging,” Dominique Browning wrote in the New York Times. “Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb: ‘I’m too old for this.’” That’s her new mantra, and the title of her essay, which lingered on the Times’s most-emailed list for days. Why? Because people want stories that ring true to their experience of growing older because they include its welcome aspects.
This week Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab ran a piece about the New York Times’ digital branding efforts. It quoted a series of tweets by Max Pfennighaus, who is the executive creative director of brand and marketing at the Times and previously held the same position at NPR, and whose job is to build the newspaper’s digital brand. He described the core challenge as the “grandpa in a nightclub” problem.
Blacks at the back of the bus. Women in the kitchen. Gays in the closet. For most of American history, until movements came along that changed things, that was “just the way things are.”
That’s still the way it is when it comes to getting older in America.
This post is by Brendan Birth, a senior at Dickinson college, who is writing about the need for older women in the workplace, working with Transportation Alternatives on the needs of older pedestrians in New York City, and identifying capacity-building grant opportunities for the Gray Panthers.
Growing old isn’t new. What’s new is how many people routinely do it. The institutions around us were created when lives were shorter, and the culture hasn’t had time to catch up. The way we respond to this demographic shift has critical social implications.
"Could the current cohort of eminent women in their 60s herald an era when aging, for women, ceases to be an enemy, and even becomes a friend?” asks Liza Mundy in the current issue of the Atlantic. (And could that magazine actually be taking a progressive position on aging?) As she observes, it’s an intriguing idea and also a profoundly counterintuitive one, given the notorious dearth of women in the halls of power.
This post is by Florence Shen, a student at Colgate University who is interning this summer with the Gray Panthers, NYC Network.