You may know me as the Director of Community Outreach for NYS Senator Liz Krueger, or you may have worked with me in the Senator’s office on issues that affect our senior constituents on quality of life or housing issues, or you may have attended one of our popular Roundtables for Boomers & Seniors. What you may not know is that for the past year and a half I have been working on my own initiative, The Radical Age Movement, outside of Liz’s office and with her full support.
WHAT IS THE RADICAL AGE MOVEMENT:
The Radical Age Movement is a grassroots nationwide effort that challenges traditional notions of aging. Our long term goal is to create new social visions that will inspire and support people to grow and participate actively throughout their entire lives. No age-segregation or pitting generation against generation—we want a society that works for us all. Our short term goal is to bring awareness to the incessant ageism that permeates our youth-oriented society.
The Radical Age Movement was born out of my deep interest in longevity and its impact on society. One thing that became clear to me is that our longer life span has not added years onto the end of our lives but has opened a new stage of life for people between the ages of 60 and 80. Once part of our nation’s cohort of seniors, these people are not ready to leave the workforce, play golf or bingo, nor be segregated from the intergenerational world around them. We are eager to keep on growing and learning, as well as mentoring and sharing our wealth of life experience. A big concern for this cohort is how we will be able to financially take care of our needs in this longer lifetime when the workforce has turned its back on us. We are a new cohort in the life span, so new that nobody knows what to call us. We don’t even know what to call ourselves. Sometimes we are the “old boomers” or the “young seniors” or the “leading edge”. Whatever we call ourselves, we are here to stay; and we need to raise our voices to make ourselves and our needs known.
The other driving factor for many of us is the recent caregiving experiences we have had or are having with helping our own parents navigate the end of some very long lives. Not liking the ageist attitudes that we have to battle to be sure that they receive the respect and care that they need, not to mention the financial resources that have gone beyond their own means, to help guide them to the end of life with the dignity and respect they deserve.
WHAT THE RADICAL AGE MOVEMENT HAS BEEN DOING:
This past fall, The Radical Age Movement (RA) went public with the launch of our website, www.theradicalagemovement.com. RA has had a busy 2015. We held two public events, one on January 13th, “Liberating the Power of Age, attended by over 100 people at the Ethical Culture Society of NY; and on February 21st 60 people attended a four hour “Age Café” workshop on ageism.
At both of our recent events, people shared their own stories of the difficulties they have confronted, or the humiliation and anger they have felt, in the face of ageism in the workplace, in healthcare, in the media, and often within their own families.
CONSCIOUSNESS RAISING AND BUILDING THE MOVEMENT:
Consciousness Raising (CR) is the method that is central to building our movement. This model of organizing–built around consciousness-raising groups where the ‘personal is political’– follows on the powerful work of the civil rights’, women’s, and LGBT movements, where small groups formed to discuss, understand, and acknowledge the mix of external and internal dynamics that contribute to a group’s marginalization and oppression. As those group members met and learned from each other over a number of months, they then came together to create a common campaign that united them all in joint action. This mix of personal development and political reform made lasting change as the movements grew from small numbers to a strong force capable of creating lasting change.
We have had many requests from people around NYC to join a CR group, and RA has decided to serve as a clearing house of sorts to help individuals either start their own or find and join a CR group that is forming.
For anyone who is interested, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please be sure to put “ consciousness raising ” or “ CR” in t he subject of your email and include your home address . We are trying our best to connect people to groups that are in their geographic location. We, the steering committee of RA, have been participating in our own CR group for the past year. We have two additional groups forming now, one on the upper west side and one on the east side of Manhattan. We have people expressing interest from Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and as far away as Poughkeepsie. If your group is newly forming, one of RA’s steering committee members will be happy to attend your first meeting to help you get started. Our guide, “How to Start an Ageing Consciousness Raising Group” should be up on our website, www.theradicalagemovement.com, within the next two weeks. Groups that want to get started before that will be provided with advance copies of the guide.
While these CR meetings are going on throughout March, April, and into May, the RA steering committee will be reviewing what larger campaign issue we wish to take on as our first initiative. A small sample of some of the suggestions that we are considering are: a campaign against an ageist ad campaign or other ageist me- dia representation of older adult; a politician who uses ageist language; a campaign to get news outlets to al- ter their language when identifying an older person, and many others. We will then bring all our CR groups together to choose such a campaign and map out next steps.
In short, we are doing just what the civil, women and gay rights’ movements did many years ago, using their lessons to guide and inspire us as we build our own movement here in the 21st century. This is an exciting prospect, built on lessons of the past and small steps by each of us in our own way. We know that some of you will become one of those emerging leaders who takes this step by hosting an evening CR session. And, we look forward to having the rest of you join us in this effort. Through such commitment, history is made.
March 9, 2015