Looking for Abuela in America

by Alice Fisher, M.A., M.S.W.
January 6, 2017

My husband and I just spent a marvelous week with our friend of over 30 years, Maria Acosta Castro, and the entire Acosta family in Medellin, Colombia. It was our first time there, and we were thrilled to meet the entire Acosta family, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, grandchildren and great grandchildren, lots of cousins, and, most important, Abuela, Maria’s mom and matriarch of this loving and dedicated family. They are certainly dedicated to each other. Most impressive, however, is their dedication to Abuela (grandmother in Spanish).

acosta-children-with-abuela
Over Christmas weekend, we ate and danced and ate and drank and ate some more. Such a happy family who sincerely enjoy each other’s company and being together. They are not a wealthy family, and yet they are extremely rich in the most important things in life…unqualified love and support. There is no word for ageism in their vocabulary.

During a conversation with Maria’s 30-year-old nephew, Fredy Duque, I mentioned how heartwarming it was to witness everyone’s devotion to his grandmother. “My grandmother is revered,” he told me. “No matter what I am doing in my life, I visit my grandmother every week, sometimes twice, as do most of our family. Her advice is invaluable.”
Maria’s brother explained to me how most of his brothers and sisters live relatively close to Abuela. “It’s how it is here,” he added. “We are all devoted to her.”

Fredy inquired about my own 3 sons and grandchildren. When I told him we have have 4 granddaughters, he asked how often they come to see us. I told him that we see two of them, 11 and 14, once a year, occasionally twice. They live in Chicago, and we go to them…they never come to us. This was completely beyond his comprehension. The others, one in college in Wisconsin and one in high school in DC where they live, we see more often…maybe 4-5 times a year. And, even that was unacceptable to him. “No, no,” he said, shaking his head, “impossible!”

I described our ageist American culture to him, explaining how Ageism is as endemic to our society as is racism, sexism, and all the rest. “Americans worship youth,” I said. “They do not value elders as contributors to our society”, I added; “some even see us as a burden. Many older and elder adults are resigned to the margins of society”. He tried to control the look of anguish on his face. He couldn’t understand. Who can? The Radical Age Movement was just not describable. I was in another world.

I then expressed my concern over our own needs in our old age and if there would be anyone to help us at the end of our lives when we can no longer care for each other or ourselves. “Incredible!” was his response. “That you need to worry about this in your later years is so bad.” I attempted to put this in perspective, explaining how we would survive while many old people who are homeless with no social support systems cannot survive old age with any quality of life, self-worth, or dignity.

Now, as I am flying home to New York City, I can’t help but feel a bit jealous of the respect and reverence that this extraordinary older woman receives, and how those high opinions contribute to her marvelous sense of well-being. I can’t help wondering where we, as a society and as individuals, went wrong. I ask myself what happened to Abuela in our American culture? Where is she?

For sure, you can find her here among the immigrant community that has not yet internalized the negative images of the old that we are bombarded with every day. Will they, I wonder, also succumb to the power of our society’s disregard for the oldest among us?

Two incidents come to mind:

  1. My parents spent the last couple of years of their lives at a wonderful facility, The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York. When we were arranging their accommodations, one of the staff said to us, “You would not believe how many people drop off their parents or other older members of their family, never to be seen again.”

2. I was asked to make a presentation on empowerment to a new women’s group that had been formed at an assistant living facility. I met with a lovely and intelligent group of older women. One issue most of them seemed to have in common was their relationships with their grandchildren. One woman told the group that she hardly knows her grandchildren and how the grandchildren really don’t know her. This sentiment was echoed by the majority of women in the room.

How sad is that!

We have to confront ageism wherever we see it. We will not only be helping ourselves; we will be helping make a better society.

Alice Fisher is Founder and President of the Radical Age Movement

How to Fight the War vs. Old People

by Alice Fisher
January 3, 2017

“Movements are engaged in ‘meaning-work’…the struggle over the production of ideas of meaning…The failure of mass mobilization when structural conditions seem otherwise ripe may be accounted for by the absence of a resonant master frame.”

Reframing Aging: Seeing What You’re Up Against and Finding a Way Forward, Frameworks Institute, April 1, 2015

elderly-peopleOld people have been getting a bad rap for a very long time. And, in case you haven’t noticed, since we have a new president-elect, there is now an out-and-out war against older adults.

I’m not proposing that age prejudice is more devastating than any other prejudice. What I am doing is calling attention to ageism, which is pernicious in our society and yet rarely included when other “isms” are mentioned. Age prejudice is the most widespread prejudice endemic to our culture as it affects every other group-whether a person of color, a woman, or LGBTQ. Why aren’t more people interested in this devastating cultural development? Ageism is a prejudice that is not bound by gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or economic status. If we are lucky to get old, it is a prejudice that everyone will have to confront. There is a saying in the field of aging: “If you are an ageist, you are setting up a prejudice against your own future self.”

As the Radical Age Movement and other organizations are confronting aspects of ageism which include invisibility, marginalization, isolation, and loneliness, we recognize that age prejudice is a poison dart shot into the self-esteem of so many older adults. It is internalized, turned into depression, and leads to an earlier decline. We must work to stop such damage—from others and done to ourselves, for we are now again threatened with Medicare and Social Security insecurity. Those who seek to destroy our benefits are counting on us to withdraw, stay depressed, remain quiet. This cannot happen!

growth-of-older-populationOne of the tools we already have at our disposal is language and how we use it. When, ask yourself, did reverence, respect, and honor disappear from the lexicon of aging? Why do elders around the world express the irrelevance to society they now feel after years of engagement with and contributions to the communities that they live in? When did older adults become geezers, biddies, codgers, and crones, old goats and old bags? Ask yourself why we see these words on birthday cards that are assumed to be funny yet target older adults with insulting humor. Why is the growth of an older population called a “tsunami” instead of a “wave of wisdom and experience”?

Think about how recent movements have resulted in language change; the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, the LGBTQ Movement, among others. Regarding Ageism, The Frameworks Institute describes ageism as being an important concern among professionals that is otherwise absent from thinking among the general public:

“While aging experts are attuned to the myriad ways that older Americans face discrimination in our society, the public is largely not attuned to this factor or to the need to address it via legal and other systemic means.”

Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America Frameworks Institute, 2015

We need to turn to language to create a society that is attuned to the ways that older Americans face discrimination. If we look at language as a symbolic system through which people communicate and through which culture is transmitted, it is not difficult to see how the words mentioned above like geezers, biddies, codgers, and crones, old goats and old bags should not be acceptable to anyone who believes that everyone should be valued throughout the lifespan regardless of age. How can we take the presently pejorative meaning of the word “old” and make it a future positive?

That’s an easy one. What about, however, the word “senior”? As “senior” today is imbued with all of these negative images conferred on older people through our culture, many older adults, particularly leading edge boomers, refuse to be categorized in this way.

dear-crossing
In a report on language change by the National Science Foundation, we are told that:

“Languages change for a variety of reasons. Large-scale shifts often occur in response to social, economic and political pressures. History records many examples of language change fueled by invasions, colonization and migration. Even without these kinds of influences, a language can change dramatically if enough users alter the way they speak it.”

At the Radical Age Movement, we believe that longevity and the opening up of a new stage of life along the life-span has fueled the call for language that enhances the concept of ageing to replace the demeaning language that has grown up in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In her book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, Ashton Applewhite suggests that we substitute “olders” and “elders” to replace the homogenized term “seniors” which lumps all people over 65 into one category. Nobody knows what to call those of us born during and after WWII; we are referred to as “young seniors” or “leading edge boomers” for lack of any other appropriate term that is acceptable to those being described.

So, what can we do to change the language of the current ageing narrative? Again, from the National Science Foundation, “before a language can change, speakers must adopt new words…, spread them through the community, and transmit them to the next generation. In order to do this, we all need to develop critical language awareness.

Here are some questions we could ask ourselves, from The Power of Talk: How Words Change Our Lives, by Briscoe, Arriaza, and Henze:

  • What social relations or social process does this language reflect, reinforce, or reproduce?
  • If I want to change these relations or process, what else besides language needs to change?
  • How can I link language change with broader social change? Or the reverse—How can I link broader social change with ground level changes that might be reflected in language?

We cannot ask others to change their language until we look into our own ageist tendencies and work on changing our own language; and, by doing so, we develop a powerful weapon to fight this war on old people. When you read, hear, or use language that in some way perpetuates or reinforces ageism, cultivate the habit of imagining alternatives. Ask yourself “How could I have said this in another way?”

Today I am inviting all of you to create space for yourselves and others to imagine what a new alternative language of ageing would look like. All suggestions accepted, staring with “I’m proud to be old!”

Alice Fisher is Founder and President of the Radical Age Movement.

The Grace Period: Meeting Myself in Ballet Class

by Susan Reimer-Torn
December 16, 2016

Here I am, at the age of 65, back at the ballet barre, doubting my stamina, my balance, even my capacity to focus on the sequences. At this age, everyone assumes I will be a dance spectator, possibly a critic, but not a participant. More than any other performing art, ballet assumes a youthful body, with nary a weakness or wrinkle or extra weight. Its aesthetic principles depend on the limitless energy and effortless perfection of youth.

In my twenties, I was a dance class regular, a non-professional devotee who, for a decade, found her greatest joy in classical movement. It feels self-indulgent to attempt this now. I am twenty pounds heavier than I was four decades ago and way too pressured by health and financial concerns to detour into gossamer dreams. I cannot imagine that I will access the ballet high again. But since the class is available at my workout hour at my local gym, I overcome skepticism and join in.

ballet-class-postI immediately notice the inclusive age range: from young girls with turn-out and high extensions to gray-haired folks in orthopedic sneakers. There are men of a certain age who are retired from a dance career and women who have never danced before. Our teacher, a woman in her mid-fifties called Audrey, has
created Ballet Moves™ a technique for all levels of adult dancers. The emphasis is on moving attentively to classical and modern music and on maintaining body and musical awareness. There are plenty of options – no one has to jump or turn, we do work on balance but a good portion of the class is warm-up on the mat, derived from the method known as barre au sol. It is clear that Audrey has a room full of loyal followers, most of whom, like me, are part of the gym’s Silver Sneaker program. But we are all out there on the floor, conscious of moving in space, with no ageist hierarchy.

I assume a first position with my feet forming a modified V and stretch out a rounded right arm. Immediately, my agitation quiets. Ballet’s precise organization of time and space settles a chaotic world into mannered civility. I breathe easier. The steady 4/4 piano accompaniment, the outward spiraling of my hips and
verticality of my spine align me with a sense of possibility. Finding a plumb line from my head down to my second toe, I’m putting a stake in the ground.

We practice tendues and degagés. These exercises teach us to shift from two feet to one, then back to two, then repeat the patterns, persistently and patiently. It is only later, once we have acquired ease with these shifts, that we attempt maintaining balance on one foot, first supported and then on our own. I find in this a metaphor for the inevitable shift in my life as my husband copes with the recent diagnosis of a chronic disease and slows way down, leaving me to assume many responsibilities for the first time. Perhaps I can practice this – from two feet to one, then back again until I find the strength to balance on my own.

I’m most distressed by my difficulty in focusing. Soon I realize why this is. Ballet practice takes place in the gap between the possible and the perfect. The younger dancer has hopes of shrinking that gap, but at this age, it is only going to widen. I’m tuning out to avoid that reality. I practice remaining in the present moment for 30 seconds, then a full minute, next time, a few minutes more. When I stay in the now, the reward is greater freedom of movement. Eventually, my mind wanders less and I benefit from stronger centering during class and even enhanced clarity throughout the day.

The mind-body practice of this modified ballet class sparks long dormant muscle memory. This triggers a lively internal dialogue between me and my younger self. She seems pleased that by choosing this class I am allowing her sensibility to find expression.

She reminds me that dance was always a go-to place for courage in challenging times. When she struck out for the world of aspiring dancers, she escaped the drab parameters of a strictly religious family. It took her a while to stand on her own two feet. When trying to find my balance in the center of the room these early autumn days, I remember how she gradually got grounded in a world that was new to her. Her long-ago courage infuses my own.

One morning, while in an expansive side-stretch to a lilting Tchaikovsky melody, my younger self points out that these classes are my grace period. Ballet is all about seemingly effortless transitions. I have time to find my footing, make shifts, let personal strength and confidence build. In ballet we push a little past our presumed edge, but not before we fully prepare.

During this time, I catch Professor Berthold Hoecher of the University of Chicago speaking on NPR’s Academic Minute about his research into which mind-body practices most cultivate wisdom. Ballet was included only as a control group, since its practice “had no hypothesized link to wisdom.” But, in a surprise twist, it turned out that “ballet made dancers wiser,” with results resembling those of meditation, and its benefits exceeding those of other somatic techniques that make greater spiritual claims. The amazed Hoecher hypothesized that ballet made dancers “more sensitive to life,” hence more capable of making “wise decisions that lead to well-being.” I’m pleased to be a living example of his discovery as are so many others in the class who never expected to experience this much joy by simply being in their bodies, its limitation and its capacities all considered.

There are days when I can stand on one leg and extend the other a little higher than before. To do that, I need to find an equilibrium between the part of myself that stabilizes and the part that reaches out into the world. I may indeed one day be without my usual safety and supports, but ballet has taught me that I need not teeter over the edge.

Susan Reimer-Torn began her career as a dance historian, writer and educator, then moved to France where she lived for 22-years, writing for the International Herald Tribune while raising a family. After returning to her native New York City in 2001, she became certified as a Life Coach and hypnotherapist, specializing in women seeking increased visibility in mid-life. Susan is now an active, freelance journalist and the author of a well-received memoir, Maybe Not Such a Good Girl: Reflections on Rupture and Return (2014). She is currently at work on a book about the challenges of long-term marriage. She supports her writing habit with a new post-retirement career, joining Klara Madlin Brokerage as a licensed salesperson. 

The Moral Obligations You Have In Old Age

Dec. 9, 2016

by Michael Friedman, L.M.S.W.
Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work

Recently I took a philosophy mini-course called “Conscientious Citizenship,” which explored our moral obligations largely through the heroic image of Socrates, who accepted a death sentence as a matter of principle and loyalty to his nation.

Although several of us questioned Socrates’ presumed heroism, the course got me thinking about what the obligations of citizenship are; and, because I am an older, retired person (73 as I write this), it got me wondering what the obligations of older, retired people are and whether they are different from the obligations of younger people.

A strange question perhaps. It is commonplace to think about what society ought to do for old people. But this is the converse question, Kennedyesque in a way. Not what does a society owe to old people, but what do old people owe to their society?
I think that ageism is the reason this question is so rarely raised. There’s an assumption that old people need help. Their presumed disabilities release them from moral obligations we take for granted for younger people.

Clearly, that is the wrong presumption. Most old people are not disabled and in need of help for basic functions. Yes, most older people have chronic health conditions, and some of these limit what they are able to do. But fewer than 15 percent of people 65 and older have activity limitations that require routine help with basic activities. This increases with age, but even at 85 fewer than half have limitations that require help with basic activities of life.(1)
In fact, most old people are quite capable and can be extremely helpful to their society. And, come to think of it, even old people with disabilities who need help often can be helpful. Can’t an old person in a wheelchair write letters of protest or support, make a financial contribution, attend a rally, or even go from apartment to apartment in a building with an elevator to advocate for the political candidate of their choice?

So from the standpoint of ability, being old does not let people off the moral hook. Old people owe their societies something. But what?

One type of answer draws from heroic images. I think not of Socrates but of great moral leaders during my lifetime like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. All not only risked their own lives in the name of social justice, they also were able to recruit followers, generally far more ordinary people — young, middle-aged, and old — who sacrificed safety and comfort or even their lives because they believed that their cause was not only just but morally and historically essential. Their souls and the souls of their societies were at stake.

These ordinary people, who followed famous leaders, were also moral heroes. Should we all seek to emulate them?

King sometimes said that the “hottest place in Hell is reserved for those people who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” He found it unacceptable for people to remain on the sidelines while others fought the (non-violent) battles that had to be fought, risking their lives and livelihoods.

Clearly, this is a time of great moral conflict. Poverty, disparity, and lingering racism and discrimination in the United States call out for social action. Disparity between developed countries and “developing” countries is perhaps even more troubling. That a billion people or more scrub out a living of less than $1 a day is awful. So is the plight of millions of refugees fleeing their homes in the hopes that they and their children will survive and ultimately make lives for themselves. The rise in population and power of groups of religious fundamentalists prepared to slaughter others for their beliefs threatens to bring about a major moral regression in the history of humanity. And there are frightening threats to the survival of the human species — climate change, nuclear warfare, depleted water supply, and more.

I think of these issues and know that, except for clever conversation, I and most people I know are effectively on the sidelines. Am I, are we all, headed, as King would have it, to the hottest place in Hell? Or are we forgiven moral lassitude and preference for a restful retirement because we are old and have “paid our dues”?

I confess that I don’t forgive myself, and lately I have made harsh and angry self-judgments while watching the horrors of human life on TV. I am loathe to make the same harsh judgement of others who, like me, have chosen comfortable retirements instead of active social advocacy, although maybe I should.

But wait a minute. Even if there are moral obligations in old age — and I believe there are — not all of our obligations are to society. There are also, as there are throughout our lives, obligations to our families and to ourselves. Think of the older people who are consumed taking care of their own parents. Think about grandparents who are providing care for their grandchildren ranging from occasional babysitting to substitute parenting, some joyously, some at great costs to themselves. Think of older people who volunteer some of their time for a cause they care about. Think of older people who have returned to school or become artists of one kind or another—people who are working to better themselves. They may never be among the world’s moral leaders or important scholars, writers, painters, or musicians, but they are fulfilling obligations I think we all have to cultivate our abilities.

Alexander Hamilton aside, it is not possible to do it all. Heroic social action, taking responsibility for one’s family, and cultivating personal excellence cannot each be fully done. We must choose among and balance fulfilling our various obligations. Isn’t it morally permissible to be a devoted grandparent or a serious student or an aspiring artist while sitting on the sidelines of the great moral issues of our time?

A few years ago I was at a political fundraiser sitting across a table from a black man who asked me, a white Jew, what I did during the civil rights movement of the 1960s when I was in college and graduate school. I did not realize until later that his question was akin to the sotto voce question I ask Germans now in their 80s about where they were during the Holocaust. So I answered truthfully that I had not gone on the freedom rides to the South or been otherwise particularly active in the civil rights movement, though I supported it (on the sidelines I’m sure he thought). Instead, I had followed another common path of the time, the cultural path, by studying and teaching philosophy and hanging out with friends who were aspiring writers, artists, and musicians attempting to create new ideas and new forms of art and music, forms that broke with the past and were revolutionary in a metaphorical rather than in a literal, political sense.

I am embarrassed that I didn’t realize that his question was a prelude to an indictment, but it strikes me as both a perfectly adequate answer and a morally adequate life choice.

In retirement, I have made a similar life choice. After a career as a social worker largely devoted to social advocacy to help people with mental illness, I have mostly withdrawn from the pursuit of social causes. Instead, I work at music, photography, and writing. I teach. I travel. And I enjoy my family — most of the time.

So I ask again, am I headed to the hottest place in Hell? Well, I don’t believe there’s an afterlife, but thinking about conscientious citizenship and King’s condemnation of those who sit on the sidelines has made me question my choice to retire, to leave social advocacy behind, and not to actively commit myself to any of the social causes that I say that I care about. I am on the sidelines, and it troubles me to be, like Candide, cultivating myself rather than working to repair a world very much in need of repair.
Does being old let me off the hook?

I don’t think so. But I also think that being morally heroic is not the only way to meet the obligations of citizenship as an old person or, for that matter, as a younger person.

There is a minimalist answer as well as a heroic answer to the question of what our obligations are. A minimalist answer would identify limited but important moral obligations of citizenship such as voting, contributing money to important causes and to admired political candidates, signing a petition, perhaps volunteering for a charitable or political organization, and so forth. These are things that almost all of us can do without disrupting our lives, without reducing our creature comforts. These are things that we can do even if we are caregivers for disabled family members, even if we are devoted grandparents, even if we have gone back to school, even if we have chosen to pursue an art, or even if we have chosen to lay back in old age and rest on our past achievements.

And these minimal moral activities are important. If everyone voted, gave money, and participated in a bit of advocacy, it would be a vast improvement in the American democracy.

But would this protect us from the “hottest place in Hell.” Frankly, I’m not sure.
_________________________________
(1) Drabek, J and Marton W. (2015) “Measuring The Need for Long-Term Services and Supports: Research Brief”. Office of the HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. July 1, 2015.

Born in 1943, Michael Friedman, LSMW, came of age in the 1950s and 60s when America was undergoing a social and cultural revolutions. He studied and taught philosophy for several years, but was quickly drawn to the challenges of mental illness. He worked as a mental health practitioner, administrator, government official (Deputy Commissioner of the NYS OMH), and advocate for over 40 years before retiring in July of 2010. At that time he was Director of The Center for Policy and Advocacy of the Mental Health Association of NYC, a center that he founded in 2003. In that role he also co-founded the Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of New York and, most recently, the Veterans’ Mental Health Coalition of NYC. Over the years he has served on numerous planning and advocacy groups at the federal, state, and local level. He continues to teach health and mental health policy at Columbia University and to write frequently about mental health and about aging.

Read Michael’s writings
Michael is also a semi-professional jazz pianist and photographer

The Voice of Older Americans in an Age of Anxiety: Staying Visible

the-invisible-middle-aged-womanLast month, the Radical Age Movement launched its first social action initiative; Age Justice: Getting Our Fair Share.  Age Justice seeks a society where all people, regardless of age and social circumstance, are secure in their homes, respected in their communities and workplaces, and provided the safety, dignity and respect to live full and complete lives throughout the lifespan, from the time of birth until our final years.  In today’s state of anxiety, we need to campaign so that ALL Americans get their fair share, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.

Many older adults want to make a difference in the world but, finding no role for themselves, they often feel they are treated as socially irrelevant.  It is up to us to push back against this common age prejudice, and today we are presented with a rich opportunity to do just that.

We now find ourselves positioned in a notable moment in history where we, as older Americans, need to be both seen and heard.  It is up to us to demonstrate the power we own as “caregivers, resource managers and income generators“.  It is imperative that we share “our knowledge and experience of community coping strategies, while helping to preserve cultural and social identities.” [The invisibility of older people: Being counted means being seen, Previously published for the Hauser Center by Bethany Brown, HelpAge USA Policy and Advocacy Fellow]

What we cannot do is shrink back from civic engagement.  It is both our right and our obligation.  When we shrink back, we are creating our own invisibility.  We older and elder adults all too easily accept the marginalized status quo as signs of wisdom and balance rather than the avoidable and deeply unfair compromise that it actually is.  Locked into a rhythm of society’s active rejection and our own passive acquiescence, we glide into marginality partly through our own volition. Not listened to as carefully at meetings or policy discussions, we pipe down rather step up.

This means that those of us who can show up, show up. It’s time for us to take our lifetimes of experience and knowledge and put it to valuable use…to demonstrate our relevance to all of those who would think otherwise …while making the world a better place.

Because of our years of living, we know that sometimes we have to go down to go up, backwards to go forwards.  We know that communities are the best way to face adversity.  We know that wounds can heal.  Older adults are aware of the greater good as we demand a democratic society, not only for us but for the generations that follow us.  Our battle scars show that we are tougher and wiser than we are given credit for.

Over the coming weeks and months, the Radical Age Movement will be suggesting actions that older adults can take as a group to be heard as we help heal the ailments that have afflicted our society. We invite your own suggestions as we embark on this difficult journey together.

12/8/16

A Campaign for Age Justice – 11/14/16 Event

ram_header_-_no_byline
introduces

A Campaign for Age Justice
Getting Our Fair Share

Bobbie Sackman, M.S.W.
Director of Public Policy
Live-On NY
How Ageism Affects the NYC Budget

Steve Burghardt, Ph.D.
Professor, Community Organizing
Silberman School of Social Work
CUNY Hunter College
What We Can Do About It

Monday, Nov. 14, 2016
6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

For the past 2 years, The Radical Age Movement has been working to promote awareness of the incessant ageism that permeates our society.

We believe that ageism is the root cause of NYC’s older adults not getting their fair share of the NYC budget.

At this presentation and workshop, you will have an opportunity to learn what YOU can do.

Our Campaign for Age Justice is a 5-point plan. You will be able to choose which part of the plan you want to work on and begin working with others who have the same interest.

We are counting on you to help shape actions to address this insidious age prejudice and eliminate its detrimental effects on young and old alike.

Ageism: Why It Matters – 11/3/16 Event

Yale Alumni Non Profit Alliance

and

Gray Panthers NYC

Present an important forum:

Ageism: Why It Matters

featuring:

Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

and

Becca Levy, Professor of Epidemiology at Yale University
leading scientific researcher on ageism in America

ashton_applewhite

Ashton Applewhite

becca_levy

Becca Levy

 

Thu, Nov. 3, 2016
6:15 PM – 8:00 PM

St. Peter’s Church
619 Lexington Avenue
@ 54th Street, NYC

Gray Panthers

For more information, please email Jack Kupferman or call 917-535-0457

Intergenerational Age Cafe – 10/19/16 Event

On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, the Radical Age Movement facilitated an Intergenerational Age Café at CUNY Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work. The event was part of Silberman’s Commons Time sponsored by the Student Alliance for an Aging Society (SAAS). SAAS serves to expand the experience and knowledge of students interested in the field of aging. Thirty older adults and thirty students participated in the Café.

The Age Café is based on a model of engaging people in conversations that matter called the “World Café.” The World Café is a powerful social technology offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

alice-fisher-at-age-cafeParticipants were welcomed by Alice Fisher, 70, founder of The Radical Age Movement and introduced to the process by Steve Burghardt, 71, founding member of the Radical Age steering committee.

I’d like to welcome our young intern….

Youth is wasted on the young…

(Overheard in H.R. Office) Well, she is a Millennial, so I wouldn’t count on her dedication to the job. They never stick around for very long….

steve-burhardt-at-age-cafeParticipants were able to revisit these statements several times as they changed seats and new groups were reconstituted. After the first round was completed, the group facilitators reported out on the conversations that these statements triggered.

During the second round, participants were asked to discuss the following:

If change in language is needed, what would some of those changes be? Is it possible for “Old” to be a good word, rather than feared? Is it possible for “young” to be attached to words like “Intern” and it not be a source of condescension?

Finally, participants were asked to speak individually and talk about what they can do personally to confront ageism. The afternoon was a great success, including the start of some new relationships between our older and younger participants.

mimi-at-age-cafeHere are some of their final statements:

  • In the agency I work at, people who are near the end of life are not treated with dignity. So, that is something that I’m going to try to change.
  • I may be more careful with my use of the word “old.”
  • This was a great forum and these were wonderful conversations. Maybe we should make it more of a practice to have older and younger adults talk with each other.
  • Before this I never really gave much thought to ageism. Now I think it’s very important for me to continue having conversations with older adults.
  • jon-fisher-at-age-cafeI’m going to commit to not shy away from having these conversations with an aging population.
  • These conversations made me want to be more interactive with older people.
  • I commit to be more mindful when having conversations with older adults.
  • I think I’m pretty aware of the problems of the old. After today, I am going to become more aware of the issues of the young.
  • To challenge people. I’ve been involved with so many social action movements but never considered the issue of ageism. I think I would like to bring together a group of people to have these discussions.
  • age-cafe-2I have to try to get a handle on what the right words and tonality are and reconfigure my brain. We’ve been educated the wrong way. We don’t have the respect for our elders which they deserve.
  • I know a lot about ageism, but what I haven’t done is integrate it into my own self.
  • I’m going to commit myself to more self-reflection.
  • My commitment is not to judge people in any age group by their age.
  • I have to learn not to treat the older adults I work with like children.
  • I need to realize that sometimes I try to help older people when they really don’t need the help. Respecting their independence.
  • I need to face that I am getting older and things will happen to my body that I don’t like and I need to accept that.
  • I need to internalize that not only is it okay but that I should be proud to be old.
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Social Security and Older Adults

A statement from the Radical Age Movement about Social Security and the Short Changing of Older Adults

If you are not outraged, you should be.

Yippee! We’re finally getting a COLA (cost of living adjustment) from Social Security. And, sit down, it’s a whopping 0.03%, which will amount to less than a $5.00 increase in our monthly Social Security checks. Now, don’t get too excited. It will probably cover the Medicare increase that is coming down the pike.

When someone tells you that they’ve never been affected by ageism, ask them what they think the short-changing of older adults in America is all about. As The Radical Age Movement has been saying, systemic ageism is rampant in our society. I mean, why give money to old people…they’re going to die anyway.

A little history about Social Security that you need to know. Social Security was initiated to lift older people who were not in the workforce out of poverty and provide some security in their later years, and it worked.

Prior to Social Security, older adults were one of the largest marginalized group of people living in poverty in the United States. Old people were not considered a constituency and really had nothing in common that would politicize them and turn them into an important voting block. Until Social Security changed that, and older and elder adults became a constituency whose vote was courted by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

So, what happened? In recent years when the cost of everything, including vital services like healthcare and food security has gone up, Social Security has remained flat. Our older citizens cannot survive on Social Security alone, yet many of us do. So back into poverty we slide.

What is going on here? There have been so many reports on increased longevity as well as the growing percentage of older adults in our society now and continuing into the future. And, yet, our government has decided that 0.03% is sufficient. It’s time to ask for our FAIR SHARE.

Are you outraged now? Write or visit your legislators and demand our FAIR SHARE!

 

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How Technology Promotes Ageism – 9/20/16 Event

How Technology Promotes Ageism
and What You Can Do to Fight Back

Presenter:
Thomas Kamber, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Older Adults Technology Services
Senior Planet

Learn More About “Techno-Ageism”
and the Ways the Digital World is Failing Seniors

Tue, Sep. 20, 2016
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

NY Society for Ethical Culture
2 West 64th Street @ Central Park West
New York, NY

Tom Kamber is an award-winning social entrepreneur, educator and activist who has created new initiatives in aging, technology, affordable housing and the arts. As founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), Tom has helped over 30,000 seniors get online and created the country’s first technology-themed community center for older adults, Senior Planet.

You’re How Old? We’ll Be in Touch

(This article, authored by our Steering Committee member Ashton Applewhite, appeared in the New York Times on Sept. 3, 2016.)

It might not seem that Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump have much in common. But they share something important with each other and with a whole lot of their fellow citizens. Both are job seekers. And at ages 68 and 70, respectively, they’re part of a large group of Americans who are radically upending the concept of retirement.

In 2016, almost 20 percent of Americans 65 and older are working. Some of them want to; many need to. The demise of traditional pensions means that many people have to keep earning in their 60s and 70s to maintain a decent standard of living.

These older people represent a vast well of productive and creative potential. Veteran workers can bring deep knowledge to the table, as well as well-honed interpersonal skills, better judgment than the less experienced and a more balanced perspective. They embody a natural resource that’s increasing: the social capital of millions of healthy, educated adults.

Why, then, are well over a million and a half Americans over 50, people with decades of life ahead of them, unable to find work? The underlying reason isn’t personal, it’s structural. It’s the result of a network of attitudes and institutional practices that we can no longer ignore.

The problem is ageism — discrimination on the basis of age. A dumb and destructive obsession with youth so extreme that experience has become a liability. In Silicon Valley, engineers are getting Botox and hair transplants before interviews — and these are skilled, educated, white guys in their 20s, so imagine the effect further down the food chain.

Age discrimination in employment is illegal, but two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it. At 64, I’m fortunate not to have been one of them, as I work at the American Museum of Natural History, a truly all-age-friendly employer.

I write about ageism, though, so I hear stories all the time. The 51-year-old Uber driver taking me to Los Angeles International Airport at dawn a few weeks ago told me about a marketing position he thought he was eminently qualified for. He did his homework and nailed the interview. On his way out of the building he overheard, “Yeah, he’s perfect, but he’s too old.”

I’m lucky enough to get my tech support from JK Scheinberg, the engineer at Apple who led the effort that moved the Mac to Intel processors. A little restless after retiring in 2008, at 54, he figured he’d be a great fit for a position at an Apple store Genius Bar, despite being twice as old as anyone else at the group interview. “On the way out, all three of the interviewers singled me out and said, ‘We’ll be in touch,’ ” he said. “I never heard back.”

Recruiters say people with more than three years of work experience need not apply. Ads call for “digital natives,” as if playing video games as a kid is proof of competence. Résumés go unread, as Christina Economos, a science educator with more than 40 years of experience developing curriculum, has learned. “I don’t even get a reply — or they just say, ‘We’ve found someone more suited,’ ” she said. “I feel that my experience, skill set, work ethic, are being dismissed just because of my age. It’s really a blow, since I still feel like a vital human being.”

A 2016 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found “robust” evidence that age discrimination in the workplace starts earlier for women and never relents. The pay gap kicks in early, at age 32, when women start getting passed over for promotion.

Discouraged and diminished, many older Americans stop looking for work entirely. They become economically dependent, contributing to the misperception that older people are a burden to society, but it’s not by choice. How are older people supposed to remain self-sufficient if they’re forced out of the job market?

Not one negative stereotype about older workers holds up under scrutiny. Abundant data show that they’re reliable, handle stress well, master new skills and are the most engaged of all workers when offered the chance to grow and advance on the job. Older people might take longer to accomplish a given task, but they make fewer mistakes. They take longer to recover from injury but hurt themselves less often. It’s a wash. Motivation and effort affect output far more than age does.

Age prejudice — assuming that someone is too old or too young to handle a task or take on a responsibility — cramps prospects for everyone, old or young. Millennials, who are criticized for having “no work ethic” and “needing to have their hands held,” have trouble getting a foothold in the job market. Unless we tackle age bias, they too are likely to become less employable through no fault of their own, and sooner than they might think. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act kicks in at 40.

The myth that older workers crowd out younger ones is called the “lump of labor” fallacy, and economists have debunked it countless times. When jobs are scarce, this is true in the narrowest sense, but that’s a labor market problem, not a too-many-old-people problem.

A 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts study of employment rates over the last 40 years found rates for younger and older workers to be positively correlated. In other words, as more older workers stayed on the job, the employment rate and number of hours worked also improved for younger people.

Progressive companies know the benefits of workplace diversity. A friend in work force policy calls this the “shoe test”: look under the table, and if everyone’s wearing the same kind of shoes, whether wingtips or flip-flops, you’ve got a problem. It’s blindingly obvious that age belongs alongside race, gender, ability and sexual orientation as a criterion for diversity — not only because it’s the ethical path but also because age discrimination hurts productivity and profits.

Being part of a mixed-age team can be challenging. Betsy Martens was 55 when she landed a job as an information architect at a start-up during the heady days of the tech boom. Decades older than most of the staff, she found it invigorating. “When it came time to talk about the music we loved, the books we’d read, the movies we saw and the life experiences we’d had, we were on different planets, but we were all open-minded enough to find these differences intriguing,” she told me. Things shifted during an argument with her boss, “when he said exasperatedly, ‘You sound just like my mother.’ That was the moment the pin pricked the balloon.”

“Culture fit” gets bandied about in this context — the idea that people in an organization should share attitudes, backgrounds and working styles. That can mean rejecting people who “aren’t like us.” Age, however, is a far less reliable indicator of shared values or interests than class, gender, race or income level. Discomfort at reaching across an age gap is one of the sorry consequences of living in a profoundly age-segregated society. The Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer says that Americans are more likely to have a friend of a different race than one who is 10 years older or younger than they are.

Age segregation impoverishes us, because it cuts us off from most of humanity and because the exchange of skills and stories across generations is the natural order of things. In the United States, ageism has subverted it.

What is achieving age diversity going to take? Nothing less than a mass movement like the women’s movement, which made people aware that “personal problems” — like being perceived as incompetent, or being paid less, or getting passed over for promotion — were actually widely shared political problems that required collective action.

The critical starting point is to acknowledge our own prejudice: internalized bias like “I’m too old for that job,” and that directed at others, like “It’s going to take me forever to bring that old guy up to speed.” Confronting ageism means making friends of all ages. It means pointing out bias when you encounter it (when everyone at a meeting is the same age, for example).

Confronting ageism means joining forces. It means seeing older people not as alien and “other,” but as us — future us, that is.

(For more on this topic, read Ashton’s book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism)

Black_Lives_Matter

Why the Radical Age Movement Supports Black Lives Matter

by: Alice Fisher, M.A., M.S.W.
July 18, 2016

Each time I post something that supports the Black Lives Matter movement on my personal Facebook page, I receive too many responses saying all lives matter. Of course all lives matter, but that’s not the point. There is a reason why we need to support Black Lives Matter. As a white mother and grandmother, I do not worry when my children and grandchildren go out the door that they may never come back.

The first time I received that response, steam started coming out of my ears. I was irate. I called a friend who posted one of those replies and said, “Did you look in the mirror this morning? You still have white privilege, I assume. Who is targeting you? NOBODY!” It is black people who are being targeted, wounded, and killed. Saying that all lives matter completely dilutes the message and the scorching reality of what is happening in America.

As he has for many years, my old friend Michael McPhearson* responded in a different and powerful way. Michael, who taught me everything I know about race and racism, is a black man and ardent social justice activist.

Here is Michael’s take on all lives matter:

White people, many of you need to wake up to the fact that every police killing of an unarmed or clearly not dangerous black person could be you. Black Lives Matter is not only about black people. It is about all people. Why? Because when you defend and protect the freedom and safety of black people in the U.S., it strengthens the freedom and safety of all people.

When advocating for the oldest and frailest among us, how often have we asserted that when institutions and government policies work for the youngest and oldest among us, they work for everyone. By raising up the most vulnerable of us, we raise up our entire society.

The Radical Age Movement is proud to support Black Lives Matter. It is in the interest of everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, religion, or economic status. As we at Radical Age advocate for age justice, we are advocating for all categories of justice for each and every one of us.

*Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, a native of Fayetteville, NC, was a field artillery officer of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. His military career includes 6 years of reserve service and 5 years active duty service. On the steering committee of United for Peace & Justice, Michael works as an activist and facilitator to help bring about social and economic justice. He received the 2015 Hershel Walker ‘Peace and Justice’ Award from the Missouri/Kansas Friends of the People’s World as co-chair of the Ferguson Don’t Shoot Coalition.

Intergenerational Age Cafe – 6/14/16 Event

Age Cafe 1 of 3Our June 14, 2016 Intergenerational Age Cafe was our biggest event ever! Nearly one hundred participants across the age spectrum gathered at the NY Society for Ethical Culture to interact with dynamic and engaged people, enjoy delicious refreshments, and discover new ways to recognize and confront the injustices of ageism.

Age Cafe 2 of 3Working with the World Café* model, participants broke into smaller groups for candid discussions on various aspects of aging, highlights of which were shared with the whole room. It was thrilling to encounter so many participants, including many young people, who got the message and are eager to help raise consciousness of ageism within their own communities.

We thank our co-sponsors for helping make this event so exciting: Emerging Aging, the Gray Panthers and the Transition Network.

Age Cafe 3 of 3* The Age Café is based on a model of engaging people in conversations that matter called the “World Café,” which is a powerful social technology offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique; it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

Share Your Story – Have you experienced and/or confronted ageism recently? Come across a company that portrays older people in a positive, realistic way? Have you already formed a consciousness-raising group of your own? Please share your story with us.

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Ageism and Budget Decisions in NYC – 5/19/16 Event

The Impact of Ageism on Budget Decisions in NYC

Thu, May 19, 2016
6:30 pm – 8 p.m.

NYPH / Health Outreach
420 E 76 St.(bet York & 1st)
1st floor

Location of Our May 19 EventPresenter:
Bobbie Sackman, M.S.W., Director of Public Policy at LiveOn NY

By 2030, 1 in 5 New Yorkers will be over 60. That is a significant increase and provides an opportunity to change the way we view aging in New York!

Ageism, the discrimination and invisibility of older adults is a reality that impacts older New Yorkers every day and is embedded in politics and institutions.

The issues that are impacted by ageist attitudes during the NYC budget process, include; Access to Services, Caregiving, Cultural Competence, Disability, Economic Security, Elder Abuse, Healthcare, Housing, Hunger, Mental Health, Social Isolation, and Transportation.

To Confront Elder Abuse, We Have to Confront Ageism

How can a grandson plot to steal the last of grandma’s savings? How can a daughter leave her frail mother tied to the bed while she is at work all day? How can neighbors say and do nothing when they notice the bruises on Mrs. Schwartz’ arms? How can friends not investigate when Sally hasn’t shown up for lunch at the senior center for over a week now? It all sounds so unconscionable, and yet it happens far too frequently. What, one has to wonder, allows someone to perform these atrocious acts? After all, these are not strangers; they are family and friends.

The New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) announced today that the agency will launch a city-wide campaign to raise awareness about elder abuse – a form of abuse that involves victimization of an older person by a loved one – and to encourage all New Yorkers to report suspected abuse to 311.  This is a great step towards confronting one of society’s greatest moral crimes. However, we cannot confront elder abuse without also confronting age discrimination.

Ageism and Elder AbuseJust as racism is the underlying systemic cause of the injustices suffered by people of color, and just as sexism is the underlying systemic cause of the injustices suffered by women (rape is a big one here), ageism is one of the main underlying causes of elder abuse. Elder abuse is made easier when we look at the old people in our society as being “other” than us. After all, if they are not us, it is easier to allow ourselves to be blind to the humanity of the oldest and most vulnerable among us.

Ageism may not be the sole cause of elder abuse, but it sure does make elder abuse easier to justify Living in an age segregated society that worships youth, it is not that difficult to make the connection between ageism and elder abuse. After all, if old people are not considered part of our world of humanity, they are dehumanized. “Why do they have to use the subway when they are so slow climbing the stairs; don’t they have any consideration for the rest of us?” “They are such a burden on society.” “Why would grandma need her money anyway? She’s only going to die soon, so we may as well put that money to use now. Why wait?

We are all aging from the moment we are born, and we seem to accept this reality until we become old ourselves. Once someone is classified as old, they are no longer like us. After all, we are young; they are old. They are no longer relevant to our ever-growing and changing society. They are finished contributing to our culture; they are now living off our culture. All they do is take while the rest of us are constantly giving. But, what can an old person really give to a society, especially when they stop adding to our gross national profit? (Which they really never do as long as we understand healthcare is a commodity.)

I also suggest that as families live further and further apart, the young are not always privileged to have the first-hand experience seeing the aging process at work. When the call comes that grandpa, who lives 500 miles away, fell and broke his hip, we are surprised. Our mind’s picture of grandpa is of the strong athletic old guy who taught us how to throw a ball when we were 7 years old. We haven’t allowed ourselves to see him as he really is, no different than the ancient old man who lives upstairs from us who can’t take care of himself. We would really rather not think of OUR grandfather or father as being one of them…those old people. Once grandma and grandpa, or mom and dad for that matter, show signs of ageing, we’re outta’ there. It’s too frightening for us to identify with these old people. “I’m never going to be like that!” Yet, if we are lucky, we will all be as old as grandpa some day.

Why is it necessary to address ageism while we fight elder abuse? Here’s a story that best illustrates the answer.

THE STORY OF THE RIVER

Once upon a time there was a small village on the edge of a river. The people there were good and life in the village was good.

One day a villager noticed a baby floating down the river. The villager quickly swam out to save the baby from drowning. The people of the village gathered around. The cleaned and fed the baby and made him a cradle so she would be comfortable.

The next day this same villager noticed two babies in the river. He called for help, and both babies were rescued from the swift waters. Again the villagers gathered around. They cleaned and fed these 2 new babies and made them cradles so they would be warm and comfortable.

The following day four babies were seen caught in the turbulent current. And then eight, then more, and still more!

The villagers organized themselves quickly, setting up watchtowers and training teams of swimmers who could resist the swift waters and rescue babies. Rescue squads were soon working 24 hours a day. And each day the number of helpless babies floating down the river increased. The villagers organized themselves efficiently. The rescue squads were now rescuing many children each day. The villagers felt very proud of what they were doing to save the lives of all the babies floating down the river. Indeed, the village priest blessed them in their good work. And life in the village continued on that basis.

The entire village was now dedicated to saving the babies.

One day, the leader of the village suggested that perhaps they should go up river to see where the babies were coming from. “How can we do that?”, cried the villagers, for now there was not one person in the village who was not involved with rescuing and caring for the babies. “If we don’t find out why the babies are floating down the river, we will soon become unable to rescue all the babies, and some of them will surely drown.”

The villagers realized that their leader was right. And, so, they took one villager from each team of baby rescuers to organize an expedition upstream to find out where the babies were coming from.

This is what organizing and social action is about…Not only to provide hands on help to those in need, but to find out what the systemic cause of the problem is. The Radical Age Movement believes that AGEISM is a major root cause of the elder abuse that so many older adults in our communities are faced with. If we really want to ameliorate elder abuse, it is our job to go “up the river” and eliminate the excessive ageism that is endemic to our culture.

Alice Fisher, M.A., M.S.W.
April 22, 2016

Age Cafe Event Summary – 3/28/16

The Radical Age Movement Brings the Age Café to Columbia University’s School of Social Work

On Monday, March 28, 2016, The Radical Age Movement was invited to demonstrate our Inter-generational Age Café in collaboration with student members of the Aging Caucus at Columbia’s Social Work School.  Although we ran this program before, this was the first time we were assured that we would be working with a truly inter-generational group of people. Forty people participated in the demonstration, 20 young adults and 20 older adults.  The workshop was co facilitated by Alice Fisher, 70, Founder of The Radical Age Movement, and Angela Hu, 29, a second year Columbia social work student.

Alice Fisher & Angela Hu
The Age Café is based on a model of engaging people in conversations that matter called the “World Café.” The World Café is a powerful social technology offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

The World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue.  The process usually begins with the first of three or more twenty minute rounds of conversation for small groups.  At the end of the twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new group, while the group facilitator remains the host of the original circle, welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round.

Our challenge was to figure out how to exercise this process, which is usually at least 3 or 4 hours long, within the 90 minute framework allotted by Columbia.  Although an extremely short amount of time, we could not pass up the opportunity to bring the different generations together.

Because of the time restrictions we formulated only 2 questions to be addressed during this workshop.  #1 was “When you think of ageing, what feelings do these thoughts provoke, and what are your fears?”  #2 was “What can we do as a society to ameliorate the rise in age discrimination?”  Participants were given two rounds to discuss question #1 and one round to discuss question #2.  Members of Radical Age’s steering committee served as group facilitators.

What is the significance of holding inter-generational programs like this?  

Scene at the Age CafeMany of the younger and older participants were separated by two generations.  The concerns of many of the students who are about to enter the world to pursue their careers are very different from those of us who were in the same position 50 years ago.  Meanwhile, those of us who are entering our older years are also experiencing a different environment than our parents did when they made the decision to retire and enjoy their “golden years.”  What this tells us is that there is no longer a blueprint to guide either cohort on their life’s journey.  It is up to all of us, young and old, to create a new blueprint for the generations to follow.  Each group cannot do this alone.  Only together can they travel this unexplored territory and  learn from each other along the way.

One fact that was evident is that both cohorts are greatly affected by the current economic climate.  Younger participants expressed their worry about finding a job and leading an independent life, while realizing that they may have go back to the nest and live with mom and dad until they can accomplish what was for us olders a given.  The jobs were waiting for us.  We were exceeding our parents’ accomplishments without much concern that this would not happen.  We also did not enter the adult world bogged down with the outrageous school loans that these students are chained to.

Our older conversants were also concerned about the economy.  Many feel that they will not have the financial resources to care for themselves.  Age discrimination has forced many out of the job market.  Longevity and advances in medical technology has created a new and vital cohort along the life span; and, yet, this cohort (people between 60 and 80) remains for the most part invisible.

Scene at the Age CafeConversations about our youth obsessed culture were plentiful, as were conversations about education, healthcare, and the workplace.

It is with great appreciation that we thank the students from Columbia’s Social Work School’s Aging Caucus for inviting and helping us introduce the Inter-generational Age Café.  We also thank the students and Radical Agers who participated in the process

Encouraged by the positive feedback from everyone involved, we are going to do it again!  We are now planning a full Inter-generational Age Café for June.  We will be sharing the sponsorship of the event with The Transition Network and other interested organizations.  We are excited about the opportunity to share this enlightening experience with you.  If you are on our mailing list, you will receive save-the-dates and fliers about the event.  If you are not on our mailing list, please contact us to join.

Alice Fisher, M.A., M.S.W., April 14, 2016

 

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This Chair Rocks – 3/15/16 Event

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
by Ashton Applewhite

Ashton Applewhite - for Mailchimp The Radical Age Movement is proud to celebrate the publication date of our steering committee member Ashton Applewhite’s This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism—a call to mobilize against discrimination on the
basis of age.

Members of The Radical Age Movement’s steering committee will be reading with commentary by Ashton. We will then hold one of our signature consciousness raising sessions as we delve deeper into the personal and political implications of these passages from This Chair Rocks.

This Chair RocksTues, March 15, 2016

6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

New York Ethical Culture Society

2 West 64 Street
@ Central Park West
NYC

Refreshments will be served

“I want to live in a world were ageism is just a memory, and This Chair Rocks Illuminates the path.”

Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of Changing Aging

“Wow. This book totally rocks…this book has empowered me.”
Anne Lamott, New York Times best-selling author

“A knowledgeable, straight-talking, and witty book that briskly explains to anyone how-wrong-we-are-about-aging.”
Margaret Morganroth Gulette, author of Agewise

Signed copies will be available for sale.
A percentage of proceeds will go to the Radical Age Movement
Radical Age Movement header

Work Group Meeting – 3/2/16

The Radical Age Movement has been growing in interest and activity over the last year.  People have asked about creating RA chapters in Albany, Philadelphia and even New Zealand!  Our Facebook web page gets more and more traffic, and we hope to build a solid social action campaign over the next couple of months. We also have received multiple requests across NYC on how to hold a consciousness raising group.

We can and will grow—but only with the help of people like you.  By committing to two or three hours a week, you could make a vital difference in the growth of our movement. You know your areas of expertise and interest.

To turn your commitment into RA action, we led a work group meeting at 11 am on Wed, Mar. 2, 2016 at Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, ‪360 Lexington Avenue (bet. 40th & 41st St.), 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10017‬‬.

We are holding this meeting mid-day as so many of us are already booked in the evenings. We will provide a conference call-in number if you are busy working elsewhere but can take an hour to hear from our committee leaders on what we plan on doing over the next few months. We also want to hear from you and your ideas on how we can build our group and our movement!

Please take a minute and make a commitment to become an active member of a work group in Radical Aging.  Thank you!

The Radical Age Movement Steering Committee

Sex Over 50 - Join Us At Our Next Event

Sex Over 50 – 2/24/16 Event

Sex Over 50:
Ageism and the Making of a Quiet Epidemic

Wed, Feb. 24, 2016
6:30 PM – 8 PM
NY Ethical Culture Society
2 West 64th Street (Central Park West)
New York, NY

Did you know that sexual relationships don’t stop just because people get older?

On Wed, Feb. 24, 2016, we learned about ageism, perceptions and reality of older adults and sexuality from Tosia McCormick, MS, LMHC.

When Did I Get Old: A Conversation Between 2 Friends

by Alice Fisher, M.A., M.S.W.                                                                                           February 1, 2016

Women relaxing with coffee Source: 86489260

”Do you really want to know what’s bothering me?” “When,” asks my friend Karen, “did I become old?”

I am so taken aback that this question would come from my 70 year old creative, caring, smart, attractive, and always busy friend who always looks so stylish.

We are both 70 years old.  At first I’m not sure if this is a real question or just a rhetorical point that Karen is about to make.  I wonder if she really wants an answer.  I reply, “Well, for one thing, we are old.”  “I know that,” Karen responded. “Yet, up until recently I didn’t feel old, and now I do.”  “When did this happen?”  In the silence following Karen’s remark, I can tell that she is serious and is really looking for an answer.

“What are we talking about here, Karen?” I ask.  “I’m not sure,” she replies.  “It seems that wherever I go, I’m the old lady in the room.  If I go to the gym, everyone looks 30 to me.  When I show up for an appointment, I can just tell that they expected a younger person.  I fear every single day that I will lose my job.   And, when I’m doing something that requires the least amount of physical agility, there is always someone who wants to help me even though I’m capable of doing it myself.  The only good I can see in ageing is that I no longer have a problem getting a seat on the subway. There is always some younger person who offers me her seat.  Just the other day I asked my son to show me how to do something on my computer.  His response to me was, “Here, mom, let me do it for you.  It’s really difficult to learn these things at your age.”  “He made me so angry!”

It’s Karen’s environment that is making her feel old.  Karen, just like the rest of us, is internalizing the messages that are being projected onto her by the society we live in.  Let’s face it.  It’s the actions of others and the messages we see in the media that often make us feel old.  And, in today’s society this is not difficult to imagine.  Just the word “old” is loaded with covert meanings.  Let’s be real here. In our post modern culture, young equals good, while old equals bad.  And, yet, everyone wants to live to be very old.  “It’s a great blessing to be granted the status of being old”, I say.  “Sure,” says Karen, “as long as your hair isn’t grey.  What do you think?  Should I dye it?”

Age discrimination can be dangerous.  Every day our youth-centric culture bombards us with messages that tell us we can look ‘better’, which is covert language for ‘younger’. Do we really believe these ad headlines:  “How Science Can Make 60 Feel Like 40” or “Wrinkles Amazingly Disappear Overnight”?  Somebody does because these ads run over and over again, and the manufacturers and distributors are laughing all the way to the bank.  What is at stake here are feelings of irrelevancy and marginalization.  No wonder so many people, both women and men, are buying into cosmetic surgery.  This is not vanity.  It is an attempt to stay relevant.

We are segregated.  We are marginalized.  We are oppressed.  And all this can easily become internalized as feelings of worthlessness.  Becca Levy, Ph.D., a psychologist and doctor at Yale University, has done quite a bit of research in this area.  Her results demonstrate that older people who are subject to negative stereotypes of ‘old’ are not only mentally but also physically less resilient than those who see ‘old’ as a positive stage of life.  Older people who internalize the negative stereotypes are more likely to shorten their life span.

This is an ongoing conversation between me and Karen.  I’m interested in asking my friend what ‘old’ feels like to her.  As Ashton Applewhite writes in her new book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, “the question is not how old we feel but how we feel about ‘old’ –or about not just being young anymore.”

Stay tuned for Part II.