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.
Actress Frances McDormand has always played unvarnished women, endearing herself to me—and winning an Oscar—for her role as queasy and massively pregnant state trooper Marge Gunderson in "Fargo." She plays another one as the title role in "Olive Kitteridge," a four-part HBO miniseries that McDormand acquired and made happen, and she's been wonderfully outspoken about herrejection of the industry-wide fixation on youth. "Looking old," she told the New York Times, "should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.
“Researching this story about getting old was revelatory thanks to @AndreaCharise and @thischairrocks” tweeted Anne Kingston, Senior Writer at Maclean’s magazine, when “Why it’s time to face up to old age” was published this week. That was gratifying, but reading the article—a sharp and balanced look at the social and economic costs of age denial—was even more so.
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?
Alice Fisher, M.S., M.S.W. is a Boomer who works in the office of NYS Senator Liz Krueger, where she developed and oversees “Senator Liz Krueger’s Roundtable for Boomers & Seniors” and counsels the senator’s senior constituents on issues of housing, healthcare, quality of life, and end of life. A long time social justice advocate, Alice is developing anti-ageism programs and working with a diverse grass roots groups in New York City to create awareness of the ageism that permeates our culture.
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.”
Laura Helmuth, Slate’s science and health editor, answers that question in this engaging article, explaining why “It’s the best time in the history of the world to be a child, a parent, or a grandparent.”
This is a guest post from Linda Bright, a staff writer and a public relations coordinator for MyNursingDegree.com. As a former hospital administrator, she writes primarily about healthcare reform, patient rights and other issues related to the healthcare industry.
Ageism is alive and well in our society—of that, there can be no question.