Happy Older Americans Month! Or, let’s stop ageism in its tracks!

Primary Source:  Amanda Toler Woodward, May 5, 2016

Logos2May is Older Americans Month and I’ve been thinking about ageism.  I write and read about the growing number of older adults, the need to provide care for all of them, the economic strain they will cause, the burden to family caregivers, and on and on and on.  If I see the phrase Silver Tsunami one more time I’m going to hurl whatever is closet to my hand at the wall. (Husband, cats, and dogs – stay clear!)

For the record, older people are not a natural disaster that will destroy everything in their path.

It occurred to me as I was trying to decide what to write about next that I have “doom and gloom fatigue”.  I started several posts that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish. In fact, I haven’t posted anything for a month because I’ve been floundering (and the hectic chaos that is the end of the academic year might have contributed to that, too).
cat buddha
At the same time it seems like everywhere I turn there is something about ageism.  I don’t know if there really is more in the media and the blogosphere  or if my current state of mind draws it to my attention – similar to how I started seeing cars just like mine all over the place after I bought it. (Well, minus the bouncy Cat Buddha dashboard ornament.)

Whether real or perception, this influx of discussions of ageism has made me reflect on how I may unwittingly perpetuate ageist stereotypes and contribute to the sky-is-falling hysteria.  That doesn’t mean I won’t write about this stuff any more.  After all, it is what I do and there are people who need help and support.  But, can I write about services for older adults and the needs of family caregivers some other way?  It must be possible, but old habits are so ingrained I might need a really coarse sandpaper to smooth out the edges.

My first step is to change the working title of the book I’m writing.  I’m thinking From Silver Tsunami to Silver Lining has a nice ring to it.  I still plan to compare elder care in the United States, Finland, and elsewhere but to the best of my ability with a more positive spin and a focus on innovative and positive approaches to the problem.  Surely we can support people without demeaning them or treating them like children.

This month I’m going to add my voice to the outcry against ageism and ponder the positive aspects of ageing and our collective fear of growing old.

And then it will be back to problem solving and saving the world.

But I’ll need your help.  Call me out when I say ageist things or lean too hard on the problem and not enough on the solving.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts about ageism and ageist stereotypes?

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Amanda Toler Woodward
Amanda Toler Woodward is an associate professor in the MSU School of Social Work. Her goal is to share reflections on a wide range of topics related to aging research, social work, academia, and whatever else catches her fancy.
Amanda Toler Woodward

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