There are so many ways to fight ageism. Changing the Narrative was excited to be a part of a creative campaign that used poetry to reframe aging: the Every Age Counts! Poetry Contest.

The contest came to fruition with an awards presentation on November 6, 2021 at the Highlands Ranch Public Library. The ceremony featured winning poets reading original poetry that challenged our ideas about age and aging.

The poetry contest was based on the idea that art can change minds. Gretchen Lopez of Seniors’ Council of Douglas County (SCDC) was inspired by Changing the Narrative’s Celebrate Age anti-ageist birthday card campaign. The 2020 birthday card campaign featured selected artists from around Colorado, who used their artwork to defy ageist stereotypes and celebrate aging.

The Every Age Counts poetry contest applied the same thinking to poetry, which can provide new stories through verbal imagery. As with the birthday card campaign, the poetry contest intentionally sought submissions from all ages. One goal of the contest was to show that ageism impacts everyone.

Community comes together to fight ageism

The campaign was led by the SCDC and brought together a partnership including Changing the Narrative, Douglas County Schools and Douglas County Libraries. The contest was open to residents of Douglas County of all ages, from August 1-September 15, 2021. A panel of educators and ageism activists served as judges:

Lilian Armijo (Douglas County School District)
Ryan Backer (OldSchool Ageism Clearinghouse)
Suzanne LaRue (Recently retired from Douglas County Libraries)
Anselma Zamora (Douglas County School District)

Every Age County Poetry Contest partners“This event was so inspiring,” said Janine Vanderburg, Director of Changing the Narrative. “I was moved by the poets’ stories and by their creativity. There are so many ways to tell new stories about aging. It is so encouraging to see that in action, coming from people of all ages. We need to tackle ageism from every angle.”

“This was a first time for all of us,” according to Gretchen Lopez. “And, it went so well. Our poets, our judges, our partners – everyone came together beautifully. It really does take a village. We hope this is just a beginning.”

Poetry reframing aging

The winning poems all tackled ageism, but came from a range of perspectives. Some poets honored their relationships with older people. Other poems showed how the poets themselves had come to reframe aging as they experienced ageism themselves, either from others for in their own minds.

The winning poets are:

  • Helen Ostrowski (Age 10 and younger)
  • Nic Hussey, Rebecca Hensley (First & Second Place, Age 14-17)
  • Montana Moore (Age 18-22)
  • Gina Popolizio, Jolene Croall (First & Second Place, Age 23-55)
  • Carol Reed and Ron Saatjian (First & Second Place, Age 56+)

The poems will be available in an upcoming booklet, published by Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. (Editor’s note: Stay tuned for the link.)

Each winner received gift cards to local bookstores provided by generous donors, including Tattered Cover Bookstore, the Castle Rock Senior Activity Center, Home Care Assistance, Nymbl Science,
Patients Choice, Donna Foerster, Valerie Robson, and Vanessa Githinji.

We at Changing the Narrative hope this inspires even more poetry reframing aging and we are looking forward to the next efforts by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County.



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