By Kari Henley
Even though it doesn't always feel like it, our society has made dramatic improvements in our understanding and tolerance of one another. Our ability to accept others of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation or spiritual preference is far from perfect, but at a macro level - we are evolving.
However, while most forms of discrimination are towards one sector of society, there is an insidious type of discrimination every single person on Earth shares. All of us are going to get old; and we hold a powerful collective prejudice around aging. The accepted idea that "getting older" generally sucks, and leads to decline, unhappiness and misery is a myth. (Actually, studies show we are happier later in life.)
No matter the color of your skin tone, who you love, or how you worship - we are all subjected to the pervasive impacts of ageism. Have you ever found yourself saying, "I'm too old," or, "I'm having a senior moment," or thinking, "What is she doing wearing that at her age?" or deciding, "I could never pursue a degree or new profession at my age"? If you recognize any of these warning signs, you are limiting your life for no reason.
In my last blog, I wrote about how I fretted needlessly about reaching certain milestones of aging. Turning 39, 49, and then 50 were "Freak out" years - until I met a few ageism activists like Ashton Applewhite and Dr. Bill Thomas to blow my limited mindset wide open. Once I started exploring my own inner ageist attitudes, I experienced dramatic and widespread epiphanies. Like peeling an onion, I began to see examples of ageism everywhere I looked, and saw how destructive it can be.
Ashton has become one of my mentors, and colleagues. I am also lucky enough to consider her a dear friend. She has been thinking about ageism for a long time: deeply, widely and broadly. She has brought her fiery spunk to forcing this topic to the surface. Her book, "This Chair Rocks- A Manifesto Against Ageism," was my favorite book last year. I gave copies everywhere. Ashton has been blasting through the white noise, and forcing the conversation with her book, New York Times articles, and online forum, "Yo is this Ageist?" She asserts,
"Aging is living. We are all going to get older, and most of us are scared stiff at the prospect. Yet, ageism is a global human rights issue."
I STILL ask Ashton if she thinks something is "ageist" while I continue to fine tune my own perceptions. It is not obvious, but subterranean.
With over 76 million baby boomers currently blasting through an unprecedentedly healthy and vibrant second adulthood, many easily living to age 100, there is no better time than now to chuck the ageist barriers we share, inside and out.
If you only watch one TEDtalk this year, watch this one. Eleven minutes of fire and brimstone truth.
Kari Henley, the former Director of Community Relations for Silvernest, now the Founder of Age Without Borders.
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