Self-imposed ageism is real. I’d be interested in your thoughts about this quote - drop a comment below.
In the words of Maggie Kuhn founder Gray Panthers, "The first myth is that old age is a disease, a terrible disease that you never admit you've got, so you lie about your age. Well, it's not a disease—it's a triumph because you've survived. Failure, disappointment, sickness, loss—you're still here."
While I know Maggie Kuhn did great work founding the Gray Panthers and was actually a early advocate for not forcing people to retire at age 65 - and had an age-inclusive focus and advocated for college students to be taken more seriously - the thought of equating aging to mere survival of failure, disappointment, sickness and loss to only reflect one side of the coin of aging. Where is the celebration of major life milestones, her achievements, her “wins” in the third-third of her life?
It’s one quote, from one moment in time, so I digress...but I hope this makes you think about how you think, and and how WE talk, about aging in 2021.
Today’s episode picks up with how should we be telling the story of aging?
We'll talk more about Reframing Aging to continue the 2-part series of Aging: Words Matter at This Is Getting Old: Moving Toward An Age-Friendly World.
Tune in as Patricia D'Antonio, BSPharm, MS, MBA, BCGP, further elucidates why words matter, particularly regarding how they may generate and promote discrimination, fear, and misconception around aging.
The Leaders of Aging Organizations collaborated with the FrameWorks Institute, which studied and reflected on the gap between popular views and misconceptions about aging.
They discussed ways to move to more positive narratives that "progress a perspective of older age as a time of challenges and possibilities, counteracting the fatalistic notion that aging outcomes couldn't be even better."
We all take cognitive shortcuts to interpret and understand all sorts of experiences, thoughts, and feelings about aging. We take these for granted, and they are primarily automatic assumptions. However, remember that a compelling narrative builds understanding, shifts attitudes, and generates support for policy solutions.
Frames are choices about how information is presented, what to emphasize, how to explain it, and what to leave unsaid.
When a Frame "works," it shifts thinking in multiple ways— knowledge increases, attitudes improve, and policy support grows.
Our goal with this project is to be able to get policies that support us as we age. - Patricia D’Antonio, BSPharm, MS, MBA, BCGP
We can get people to talk about aging and change the discourse on what people think about it. As we start to do that, ultimately, our goal t is to be able to get policies that support us as we age so we can get that discussion going and get people to start to think about aging differently.
Consider the following for a compelling narrative:
Justice – Highlight that our society should treat older people as equals and ensure meaningful opportunities to contribute
Ingenuity – Provide encouragements and positive reinforcements like saying, "We are resourceful and can find new and creative solutions for the challenges that come as we age."
✔️ That context and environment shape decisions and outcomes
✔️ The value of ingenuity
✔️ Inclusion and the use of "we."
✔️ An explanation that underlying social conditions influence health, financial security, employment
✔️ Systemic solutions
So experts need to communicate with the public to make sure that the thinking for Americans is positive about aging because it can shorten your lifespan, and you end up with more health problems because of it.
“The first step in fixing ageism is to raise awareness.” - Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FGSA, FAAN
Ageism is the discrimination of any person of any age—the tendency to regard older people as debilitating. We have some subconscious thoughts about that. It starts when we're very young about taking in information about aging and older people.
Consequently, it becomes thoughts and feelings that you have that you don't even realize. Such thoughts and feelings are implicit biases. We have an implicit bias about many things, but it's the internalized bias tied to how we want to process so much information.
Implicit biases can be harmful and challenging for all of us to think about that. Some of the things that we work on are we help people develop "well-framed messages." We ask people what they think about aging. They give us their answers which are more around those negative models that we talk about—us versus them, the fatalism, the individualism. We read them well-framed sentences about aging, and a couple of minutes later, we see the difference in how the same people respond.
Conclusively, our research shows that communicating a positive understanding of the aging process mitigates sources of implicit bias.
She is also the project director for the Reframing Aging Initiative, a long-term social change endeavor designed to improve the public's understanding of what aging means and the many ways that older people contribute to our society.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing ('96) and Master of Science in Nursing ('00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I genuinely enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as an FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home, and office visits), then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON lecturer. I obtained my Ph.D. in Nursing and a post-master's Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing ('11). I then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing faculty in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor. I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health, and Humanities. Please find out more about her work at https://melissabphd.com/.