Ageism is a problem so embedded into our culture that it can be hard to see. But ageist messages are everywhere, even in something as positive as birthday cards.
After we reach a certain age, birthday cards that refer to age seem to be less about celebration than humiliation. No doubt that some of them are funny, but taken as a whole, how does it feel to see yourself universally portrayed as irrelevant, unattractive and broken?
Consider flipping this around and see how it feels. What if we celebrated children’s birthdays with messages like, “Now you are five. No more fun for you. Welcome to school.”? That’s a pretty incomplete viewpoint on age and it certainly doesn’t seem celebratory.
We need other options. We need alternatives that celebrate age and the wider reality of aging. Yes, there are things about aging are not fun. However, the reality is that much of it is great too.
This is why we’ve created the Celebrate Age campaign. We are calling for birthday card designs from local artists that illustrate the good things about getting older. Artist applications are due by September 28, 2020.
Once we have a selection of cards, the cards will be available from our online store, coming this fall. You can read more about it on the Celebrate Age page.
We can turn minds around
Does it help to spread the word that birthday cards are ageist? Yes. One case in point comes from Laurie Brock, one of our longest-serving Change AGEnts. (Change AGEnts are trained volunteers of all ages who will call out ageism, educate their networks about reframing aging, and recognize efforts to promote an accurate view of aging.)
Laurie took the opportunity of her birthday to spread the word. Here’s what she had to say:
Telling your friends about ageism; talking about the fact that we are our own worst offenders; sharing with colleagues that making fun of older people is in no one’s best interest; and reminding everyone that ageism is the one “ism” that all people will (hopefully) experience…these conversations matter and they work:
I just had a birthday. I got 27 birthday cards and NONE of them were ageist!
It helped that I shared Change AGEnt work with my friends and family.
Tell the stories. Right the right. Talk the talk. Change the Narrative.
Follow the campaign
We need birthday cards that actively celebrate age. Too many birthday cards are ageist. Read more about the Celebrate Age anti-ageist birthday campaign. We’ll be announcing designs later in October. And, after that, you can order the cards online and help us all reframe how we celebrate age.
Sara Breindel, Changing the Narrative blogger