There are many ways to fight ageism. We can speak out when we see it and refuse to buy ageist products. We can share our views with leaders and exercise our vote. Also, we can use our own creativity to write new stories about aging. In doing this, we provide alternatives to the stereotypes commonly used about each generation. This is the idea behind the Every Age Counts! poetry contest, opening on August 1, 2021.

All ages welcome & encouraged

Inspired to create a multigenerational appreciation of aging, the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County, with partners Changing the Narrative, Douglas County Libraries and Douglas County Public Schools, created the “Every Age Counts!” anti-ageist poetry contest. The contest runs August 1 – September 15, 2021.

The contest is open to Douglas County Colorado residents of all ages. Contestants can celebrate age in the poetry form of their choice. Judges will choose winners in age categories and the contest culminates in an award ceremony on November 6, 2021 at the Highlands Ranch Library.

The panel of judges includes published poets, anti-ageism leaders, teachers and librarians. The contest web page has details and rules, as well as an information packet with anti-ageist poetry examples for participants.

Anti-ageist poetry challenges assumptions

The goal of the contest is to challenge the assumptions we make about people based on their age. In other words – ageism. Ageism is prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination based on age. Why does this matter? First off, it is both unfair and inaccurate. Age alone does not define people, any more than their gender, race or other single characteristic.

Next, and equally important, ageism has negative impacts on our health, workforce participation and the economy. It divides generations and it also affects people of all ages. For instance, both younger and older people experience age discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, ageism is learned early in life and becomes internalized, meaning that we can be ageist against ourselves. Therefore, we need to start combatting it at an early age, as well as throughout our society.

“The one thing that we all have in common is that today, for each one of us, is the oldest we’ve ever been. So, it doesn’t make sense to be ageist,” said Janine Vanderburg, Director of Changing the Narrative. “The fact that we are living longer and mostly healthier lives gives us the chance to do and become more. Plus, every age has its own unique benefits to celebrate. Ageist stereotypes and intergenerational conflict get in the way of finding solutions to common challenges.”

“Ageism diminishes us all and our goal with this contest is to get people to think differently,” explains Gretchen Lopez, Chair of the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. “Poetry is all around us, in greeting cards, nursery rhymes and in songs we sing. Expressing ourselves through poetry opens our minds and expands our connection to others.”

“We’re so excited to partner with the Douglas County Libraries and Public Schools so that we can engage people of all ages,” adds Lopez. “We invite amateur writers in Douglas County to participate.”

For more information, see the Every Age Counts! contest website.