Welcome to: Ageism

In this episode of the This is Getting Old podcast, the biggest problem with America’s mindset about aging and the prejudices that older adults face are discussed. Key points covered in this episode include:

  • In the next ten years, there will be more older adults on the planet than children for the first time in human history.
  • Millennials took over as the largest generation two years ago.
  • This year, Millennials are beginning to turn 40, making them old enough to sue for age discrimination in the workplace.
  • Ageism is the only form of discrimination largely absent from our national dialogue around diversity and inclusion.
  • Aging is something that everyone is experiencing, yet ageism is socially accepted and even projected onto ourselves.
  • We have about 25 years to find policies and solutions to make the world more age-friendly and eradicate ageism.

Do you feel like you are in the driver’s seat of your own life? With COVID-19, many of us may not feel like we are. These same feelings can happen to you as you age, but there are ways to help older adults get back to feeling like they are in the driver’s seat of their own lives.

In this episode, we invited Cindy Cox- Roman, a market researcher, gerontologist, and the founder of WIT Consulting to talk about “personal agency”. Her professional experience made her aware of how marginalized older people are in society and when working on her Master’s degree in Gerontology, she became interested in the concept of “personal agency” – and particularly in older women.

Part One of Older Women and Personal Agency

But what is personal agency? We understand that this is not a common term used every day, and some of you are a bit confused right now. Personal agency is a term used in academics by sociologists. It refers to the idea of having a hand in the direction that your life takes. Most of us refer to it as having self-determination and being self-sufficient. It’s synonymous with being in the driver seat of your own life.

But what makes a person lose that sense of personal agency in the first place? How can we help people live the best moments of their older adult life?

We must adjust how we help someone maintain their agency. – Melissa Batchelor (22:53 – 22:56)

Who are we referring to when we talk about “older women”? When we say older women, we typically mean women who are 60 years old and older, but the term could be any woman who is 50 years old and older. Older women aren’t a homogenous group because each generation is different – and individuals within a generation are different depending on their life experience. Women born before 1928 (Greatest Generation); born 1928-1945 (Silent Generation); born 1946-1964 (Baby Boomers); and born 1965-1980 (Generation X) will all have had very different life experiences that shape their sense of personal agency over a lifetime.

Part Two of Older Women and Personal Agency

Personal agency, even at an old age, is essential because, without it, we can’t realize our dreams. Without personal agency, we don’t have feelings of self-efficiency, self-control, and self-confidence. Ideally, you gain a sense of agency as a child. But you need to learn how to use your agency, practice it, and hold onto it until our last breath.

According to Cindy’s independent research, this agency tends to peak when women and men are in their 50s. Specifically, for women, you will notice a steady decline after that age bracket. The next question is, why? There are several factors. We may experience health and financial issues. For example, if you fell broke your leg, and you can’t get to the store or take care of your daily needs. If this happens to you in your 20’s, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world, you know you will get better. If you are in your 80’s, this broken leg can make you feel that you lost control of your life.

Financial issues, such as living on a fixed income, can hinder you from doing the things that you would like to do, such as traveling or visiting family and friends who live far away. Age discrimination in the workplace is also a significant factor. It’s harder to find a new job when you are in your 50s. In fact, 76% of adults aged 45 and older have reported their age as a problem in finding a new job; 50% of older workers report being prematurely pushed out of longtime jobs, and 90% report never earning as much again. Experiencing age discrimination around employment diminishes your sense of being in the driver’s seat.

But let’s be clear that losing your sense of personal agency doesn’t happen to everyone. Some older people still have personal agency despite these health and financial challenges that most of us face when we age. These differences in perspective seem to depend on the environment you were raised in as a child and the life experiences a person has had.

What’s more interesting to look at are the social and cultural aspects of why we lose agency. You see, many women who were in the late 1950’s or earlier were not typically socialized to have agency. They were raised to believe that they should get married, have children, and that a man should be the head of the household. They think that it is wrong to ask for

In this episode of the “This is Getting Old” podcast, ageism in the workplace is discussed with entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg. Key points from the discussion include: – The truth about aging women in tech, with the continued perception that tech startups are primarily for young people. – The advantage of starting a business later in life, with the wisdom and experience gained over time. – The high spending power of seniors, particularly women aged 65 and older who make purchasing decisions and drive tech adoption. – The importance for businesses to focus their efforts on this demographic as customers. Randi Zuckerberg is an investor, performer, media entrepreneur, and “professional mom to startups.” She is the best-selling author of four books and the creator of award-winning content through her company, Zuckerberg Media. Prior to founding her own company, Randi was an early employee at Facebook, where she is known for creating Facebook Live. She is also recognized for her work in theater and has received Emmy and Tony Award nominations.

In this episode of “This Is Getting Old: Moving Towards an Age-Friendly World,” Patricia D’Antonio discusses the importance of reframing aging in order to improve the public’s understanding of and support for older adults. The Reframing Aging initiative, led by 10 National Aging Organizations, aims to foster a new language around aging that emphasizes age-friendly services and policies. D’Antonio highlights various challenges in how the public thinks about aging, including cultural models that drive people’s thinking, the impact of ideal vs. perceived real views of aging, the influence of individualism, the “us” vs. “them” dichotomy thinking, and the impact of fatalism. It is important to reframe aging because ageism harms us all, public perceptions about older adults are incomplete and unrealistic, ageism is not considered a problem, and the broader public tends to push aging away while experts see aging as a possibility. However, it’s not all pessimistic, as there are opportunities to solve problems collectively, embrace a collective responsibility in society, and recognize that what surrounds us shapes us.

Key takeaways:

  • The Reframing Aging initiative aims to improve the public’s understanding of and support for aging.
  • Cultural models play a role in shaping people’s thinking about aging.
  • The ideal vs. perceived real views of aging can lead to misconceptions.
  • Individualism can overlook the systemic factors that influence aging.
  • The “us” vs. “them” dichotomy thinking impedes support for aging.
  • Fatalism can discourage action and problem-solving.
  • Ageism harms everyone and is often not recognized as a problem.
  • The public tends to push aging away, while experts see aging as a possibility.
  • There are opportunities to solve problems collectively, embrace a collective responsibility, and recognize the importance of social determinants of health.

About Patricia D’Antonio:

Patricia M. “Trish” D’Antonio is GSA’s vice president of professional policy affairs. She is responsible for managing the Society’s relationships with other organizations in the aging arena, leading major Society programs and projects, and overseeing the Reframing Aging Initiative. D’Antonio has extensive experience in the field of aging and contributes to improving the public’s understanding of aging.

How we think about aging can have a significant impact on our recovery from disease or accidents. Self-imposed ageist beliefs can actually shorten our lifespan by seven years. It is important to challenge and change our thoughts and perceptions about aging to promote a positive narrative. Reframing Aging is a movement focused on shifting attitudes and generating support for policy solutions that support aging populations.

When telling the story of aging, it is crucial to use a compelling narrative that includes tested values, provides explanations, and offers concrete systemic solutions. This narrative should avoid equating aging with decline, cuing individualism, portraying older people as “other,” and describing the aging population as a crisis. Instead, it should emphasize the importance of context and environment, the value of ingenuity, inclusion, and the influence of social conditions on health and financial security.

Word choice also matters when talking about aging. Terms like “seniors” and “the elderly” can contribute to ageism, while using terms like “older adults” or “older people” can be more inclusive. Organizations such as the Associated Press, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association have updated their style guides to adopt language that promotes positive thinking about aging.

Implicit bias around aging is also a significant issue. Ageism is the discrimination of any person of any age, and implicit biases are subconscious thoughts and feelings that we may not even realize we have. These biases can be harmful and need to be addressed. Communicating a positive understanding of the aging process can help mitigate implicit biases.

To create an age-friendly world, it is essential to call out ageism, practice using helpful tips, learn about public opinion on aging, and access resources such as workshops and presentations. The Reframing Aging Initiative provides helpful resources and training to promote positive perceptions of aging.

Overall, by reframing our thoughts and narratives about aging, we can promote a society that treats older people as equals, values their contributions, and supports them in living fulfilling lives.

Negative beliefs about aging can significantly impact our health and well-being, decreasing our lifespan by an average of seven and a half years. Ageism, the belief that growing older leads to decline and decay, is a harmful stereotype that needs to be challenged and dismantled.

Representation of older individuals in the media is scarce, and they are rarely portrayed as romantic or sexual beings. Breaking down ageist barriers and showcasing older adults in a positive light is essential for combating ageism.

The negative assumptions and beliefs about aging also have significant health impacts. Constantly thinking that everything will deteriorate with age and attributing every ache to getting older can lead to poorer health outcomes. It is important to challenge these beliefs and embrace a more positive outlook on aging and health.

Expanding social connections to include friends of all ages can enrich our lives and provide a broader perspective. Breaking the habit of gravitating towards people our own age and engaging in conversations with individuals older or younger than us can lead to meaningful connections and new experiences.

Ashton Applewhite, a journalist and author, is passionate about raising awareness of ageism in America and inspiring younger and older individuals to join the movement against ageism. Her book, “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism,” and her online platforms provide valuable resources and information about dismantling ageist beliefs.

To learn more about Ashton Applewhite and her work, you can visit her websites, follow her on social media, and explore her TED Talk.

The economic contributions of people over the age of 50 around the world was $45 trillion in 2020 and is projected to reach over $118 trillion by 2050.

Companies should focus on creating strategies for long-term success and relevance by understanding the shifting demographics in the workforce, such as millennials and Gen Z, and managing the generational diversity in the workforce.

Dr. Jean Accius emphasized the ripple effect of the aging population, as people over 50 are taking care of their families and communities and want to be engaged and give back.

Companies should create an inclusive atmosphere and tailor their strategies to employees of different ages and backgrounds to ensure longevity.

Older adults are resilient and innovative, with a global survey showing that 94% of older workers had little to no difficulty managing technology during the pandemic.

Dr. Jean Accius can be connected with on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for opportunities to learn from his expertise.

There has been a demographic shift with more adults over 40 than children under 18 for the first time in history. Adults aged 50 and over control 70% of America’s household disposable income and are projected to spend $84 billion annually on tech products by 2030. Marketers need to be aware of this shift and tap into the spending power of this demographic.

Ageism awareness matters in marketing, as baby boomers are reinventing the concept of older age. Marketers should develop strategies that reflect positive and healthy aging.

Current marketing strategies often miss the mark by not including older adults or portraying them in a negative light. Ageist beliefs can impact marketing teams and their strategies, so it’s important to change these biases.

To make age-friendly marketing campaigns, marketers should:

  • Avoid age-based marketing and instead focus on ageless or age-inclusive marketing
  • Correct myths and misconceptions about older adults
  • Avoid messaging focused on daily living and instead highlight how products enhance life
  • Use titles that reflect older adults’ life roles instead of using labels like senior citizen
  • Ensure that images are intergenerational and focus on experiences
  • Tap into the grandparent economy as grandparents contribute significantly to the economy
  • Understand generational buying criteria and sell the product’s benefits over competitors
  • Design personalized interactions that are easy for older adults to navigate
  • Prioritize customer service and be accessible for questions and support
  • Use multi-channel marketing to reach the 40 plus age group both online and offline
  • Use relatable language that focuses on how products improve older adults’ lives

Age-friendly marketing should focus on inclusivity, intergenerational experiences, and use inclusive language. Examples such as Chevrolet’s EV Car Commercial and Marriott’s “Travel Makes Us” Campaign demonstrate ageless marketing.

Resources like the Reframing Aging Project and the Implicit Project Quiz can help with developing effective age-friendly marketing campaigns.

Overall, marketers need to adapt their strategies to tap into the spending power of the new consumer majority and challenge ageist beliefs.

The biggest surprise to a man’s life is getting old. And it’s true: As one ages, the person inside remains the same and what changes is the exterior. In this episode, I have a conversation with Larry Samuel, the author of Age Friendly: Ending Ageism in America, Aging in America: A Cultural History, and Boomers 3. 0: Marketing to Baby Boomers in Their Third Act of Life. We discuss insights on aging in America and its cultural history and how today’s generation should prevent discrimination just as when it’s their turn to get older.

Key points covered in this episode:

  • The idea of aging and ageism in America is a 200-year-old story. Larry Samuel shares, “The first native-born white Americans looked at the founding fathers’ generation, the colonialists in an age, as the way they felt they were out of touch. They were fuddy-duddy, and they wanted to reinvent America in their own way. So this goes back spanning 12 or 15 generations. So this generational competition is nothing new.”
  • 92% of diversity and equity inclusion (DEI) people do not consider age as part of their mission. Human Resources and the DEI folks should lead the way here — it’s up to them to prevent ageism as the gatekeepers to corporate America.
  • When it comes to age, there’s still a lot of this “Us versus Them” approach; and ageism is actually the only -ism we tend to even self impose. Melissa Batchelor reminds us that “Self-imposed ageism decreases life expectancy by about seven years – so how you think about aging and if you think getting old is only going to be associated with decline affects your health and well-being.”
  • Most Marketers are ignoring older customers or do not know how to communicate with them effectively. In his book Boomers 3.0., Larry points out how marketers are either underrepresenting or misrepresenting instead of being inclusive towards people of age, whether they be workers, citizens or consumers.
  • Ageism in dating apps is crazy town – a LOT of people lie about their age. People say they’re younger than they are – up to ten years younger than they actually are in order to beat the dating app algorithms.
  • Diversity of generational perspectives is a good thing, whether in business or in life. An intergenerational workforce benefits younger persons as older, more influential people bring about a reciprocal relationship to the pure digital natives of today.
  • Aging is suffering from an image problem. Larry points out how the whole anti-aging industry is not helping matters at all because they’re reinforcing the idea that aging is a negative experience that we should try to delay or avoid. “Let us embrace it because I believe it’s a good thing. So I think it would be great to have some kind of ad campaign that aging is a good thing, like with Steve Tyler or Paul McCartney, who can endorse it that way. That’s my recommendation of the day.”

Lawrence R. Samuel is the founder of AmeriCulture, a Miami- and New York City-based consultancy dedicated to thought leadership relating to the past, present, and future of American culture. As a trailblazer in translating cultural insights and emerging trends into business opportunities for Fortune 1000 companies and their agencies, Larry is widely recognized as an expert in the economic, social, and political dynamics of consumer behavior. Larry is the author of many books and writes blogs for psychologytoday.com. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and an MBA in Marketing.

Find Larry on Twitter @LarrySamuel and LinkedIn.

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