To be truly radical is to make hope possible instead of despair convincing.
Last Monday, I moderated the kickoff keynote panel on ageism and ableism at the American Society on Aging‘s #OnAging2023 conference. I quoted Raymond Williams, then asked panelists Ashton Applewhite, Christina Peoples, MS, Elizabeth White and Tracey Gendron: “When you think about the battle to end ageism, what are you most hopeful about right now?” (You’ll get to hear what they had to say when the keynote recording is released.)
What I’m hopeful about in the movement to end ageism
Later that evening, a few people approached me in the lobby and asked me what I was hopeful about. My quick response: A lot! This is my extended answer about the things I witnessed at the conference that are giving me hope that the movement to end ageism is making progress.
- The fact that the conference kickoff was a keynote panel addressing ageism, featuring leading anti-ageism authors and advocates, as well as the number of sessions that focused on ageism in some way or another, including the well-attended How to Be An Anti-Ageist Influencer social media workshop, facilitated by Adi Goldstein and Ashley Stevens, and my Colorado colleagues Kris Geerken, MHA and Lindsay Neville’s Antidotes for Ageism: A Guide to Age-Inclusive Healthcare.
- How the #OwnYourAge concept took off. At the end of the keynote panel, I shared my age and asked everyone in the audience to shout out theirs. They did. Hundreds flocked to the Art Against Ageism photo booth in the Shutterstock Ending Ageism area, taking photos of themselves holding up a card with their age.
- All of the art with anti-ageist and age-positive messages! Kudos to Meg LaPorte, Michelle Olson, Jodie Berman, Margaret McDonald and others for bringing their creativity to fight ageism, and to my friend and Changing the Narrative, a leading anti-ageism initiative Change AGEnt Jan Golden for her spectacular (and popular!) booth featuring age-positive birthday cards, stickers and more.
- The number of people of all ages attending the 2023 conference, including the amazing ASA RISE Fellows. Kudos to ASA for cultivating diversity in the field.
- The number of people who cited research from AARP and Dr. Becca Levy about the impact of ageism on our financial security, health, longevity and the economy. The message is getting out: Ageism is rampant and ruinous, and we need to do something about it!
Are we there yet? Um, no. There were some cringy moments of hearing people making ageist remarks about themselves. And we know that there is lots to do in policy and advocacy to create that age-inclusive world we envision. But the fingerprints of ASA’s Ageism and Culture Advisory Council were all over the conference. Thank you!
As my friend and Encore Public Voices Fellow Dr. Kitty Oliver says: Seek hope, see hope, BE hope. There was lots to see and celebrate last week in the movement to end ageism, and we ALL have the opportunity to BE that hope for others. Adelante!
Janine Vanderburg, Senior Strategist Changing the Narrative