Too Old, Out Of Touch? Too Young, Inexperienced? Ageism In America

Current Channel

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Meet the 66-year-old boomer radical who is looking out prejudice towards older People. We’ll speak with Ashton Applewhite, writer of the new e-book “This Chair Rocks.”


Ashton Applewhite, writer of the e-book “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism” and the weblog Yo, Is This Ageist? ()

From The Studying Listing

Excerpt from “This Chair Rocks” by Ashton Applewhite

Damaging messages about getting old forged a shadow throughout the whole life of each American, stunting our prospects, financial system, and civic life. This is oppression: being controlled or treated unjustly. Nevertheless, most People have but to put their considerations about growing older in a social or political context. Once I ask individuals if they know what ageism is, most mirror for a second, examine the phrase to other “isms,” and understand what it should imply. The concept rings true, they usually nod. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless a new concept to most. And until social oppression known as out, we don’t see it as oppression. Perpetuating it doesn’t require acutely aware prejudice or deliberate discrimination. This lesser life is “just the way it is,” and the best way it in all probability all the time will probably be.

It wasn’t all the time like this. In most prehistoric and agrarian societies, the few individuals who lived to previous age have been esteemed as academics and custodians of tradition. Faith gave older men energy. History was a dwelling thing handed down across generations. This oral tradition took a critical hit with the invention of the printing press, when books turned various repositories of data. So long as previous age remained comparatively uncommon, though, olders retained social standing as possessors of useful expertise and knowledge. The younger United States was a gerontocracy, which served the older males who held the reins; youthful residents had to age into positions of authority.

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries ushered in a reversal. Modernity brought large transitions that lowered the visibility of older members of society, diminished their alternatives, and eroded their authority. Speedy social change made learning concerning the previous appear much less related. Getting older turned from a natural process right into a social drawback to be “solved” by packages like Social Security and “retirement villages.” The historians Thomas R. Cole and David Hackett Fischer have documented how, at the beginning of the 19th century, the thought of getting older as part of the human situation, with its inevitable limits, more and more gave option to a conception of previous age as a biomedical drawback to which there could be a scientific answer. What was misplaced was a sense of the life span, with each stage having value and which means.

Propelled by postwar leisure and prosperity, the explosion of shopper tradition, and analysis right into a stage of life newly dubbed “adolescence,” youth culture emerged as a distinct twentieth-century phenomenon. As this “cult of youth” grew, gerontophobia—worry of ageing and dislike, even hatred, of previous individuals—gained traction. Those of us who grew up within the 1960s and ‘70s have been warned not to belief anyone over thirty, maybe the first overt exhortation to take sides throughout a generational divide. The many years past thirty appeared ever less enviable. “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” crooned the Beatles.

The standing of older People is rooted not solely in historic and economic circumstances but in addition in deeply human fears concerning the inherent vulnerabilities of previous age: the loss of mobility, visibility, and autonomy. Not all of those transitions befall us all, and only two unwelcome ones are inevitable: we’ll lose individuals we’ve recognized all our lives, and a few part of our our bodies will crumble. These modifications are natural. We’ll all grow old, and most of us will grow to be much less cellular. These transitions are pure and inevitable. However we reside in a tradition that has yet to develop the language and instruments to help us cope with them. That’s partly as a result of these modifications make us really feel weak, partly because longer lives are such a new phenomenon, and partly because of ageism, both internalized and in the culture at giant. In consequence, all too typically these transitions are characterized by shame and lack of vanity.

Internalized, these fears and anxieties pave the best way for a number of unhealthy behaviors that embrace denial, overcompensation, and worse: actual contempt, which legitimizes stigma and discrimination. Two characteristics of marginalized populations are self-loathing and passivity—what my daughter tactfully dubbed the “yuck/pity factor” that the prospect of growing previous invokes in so many.

As a good friend who bought a home from a wheelchair consumer observed, “Damn, it’s nice to have wide doorways, and a toilet positioned this way—they should just do it for everyone.” That’s the premise of universal design—that merchandise designed for older individuals and other people with disabilities work great for everyone else too. “Age-friendly” merchandise enhance the built surroundings and make it more accessible, but stigma keeps them off the market. Realtors advise eradicating ramps and grip bars earlier than putting a home available on the market, as if no buyer might see accessibility as a bonus or ageing into it as a necessity. Alas, because of internalized ageism, they’ve obtained some extent.

Stigma trumps even the underside line. There’s a fast-growing “silver market,” particularly for products that promote “age-independence technology,” but advertisers proceed to pay a premium to focus on eighteen- to thirty-five-year year-olds. Even though individuals over 50 hold 70% of disposable revenue within the US, retailers are uneasy about stocking merchandise for them and corporations are leery of investing. Until they’re selling health aids, brands don’t need to be associated with the no-longer-young set either. Simply as telling is the resistance of older shoppers themselves to buying products which may telegraph poor eyesight or stability.

As an alternative we blame ourselves for an enormous range of circumstances not of our making and over which we’ve no management. Difficulties flip us into “problem people.” When labels are arduous to learn or handrails lacking or containers arduous to open, we fault ourselves for not being extra limber or dexterous or better prepared. Watching an older individual struggling to heave herself out of a low chair, we assume her leg muscle tissues are weak or her stability is shot, as an alternative of considering the inadequacies of seating so deep or low to the ground. If we see an adolescent perched on a kindergartener’s chair, we don’t bemoan the truth that his legs received so big. Kiddie chairs aren’t designed for youngsters any greater than armchairs are designed for ninety-year-olds.

The difficulty is just not competence, or incompetence, nevertheless it’s arduous to maintain sight of that in an ageist world. These obstacles are much less of an issue than the underlying policies and prejudices that scale back access and independence. We blame our personal ageing, as an alternative of the ageism that renders these natural transitions shameful and these limitations acceptable. Discrimination—not ageing—is the barrier to full participation on the planet round us.

From This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Towards Ageism by Ashton Applewhite. Copyright (c) 2019 by the writer and reprinted by permission of Celadon Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC.

New York Occasions: “Opinion: In Defense of the Gerontocracy” — “Dianne Feinstein doesn’t get it. How could she? She’s 85. Ancient. She has had too many decades to resign herself to the status quo, and she won’t be around to watch the fires rage and the oceans boil. Step aside, Granny. Sturdier legs will lead the way.

“That was the subtext — truly, that was the text — of the California senator’s conflict with schoolchildren in her San Francisco office last week, as they lamented her coolness to the Green New Deal and she or he pushed back that she knows a thing or two. She’s proper. She does. And whereas that’s largely a perform of smarts, it’s also a perform of age. The constructing blocks of wisdom are experiences, which come solely with the passage of time.

“Nancy Pelosi is 78. There was plenty of hand-wringing about that in the buildup to the midterms. I participated in it, joining many youthful Democrats who questioned her willpower to turn into House speaker. How about some recent power and new blood?

“Thank heaven she swatted us away, as a result of she smacks down Donald Trump more successfully than another politician, and the reasons embrace her poise and metal, the type cast by many battles over many years. They accrue as wrinkles do, with prolonged publicity to the elements.”

The Guardian: “America has turn into a gerontocracy. We must change that” — “America has a gerontocracy drawback.

“This was clearly demonstrated in the current hearings concerning Decide Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the supreme courtroom, throughout which Chuck Grassley, the 85-year previous chairman of the Senate’s judiciary committee, apologized to Kavanaugh for having to answer for his alleged crimes.

“The era that when declared to not trust anyone over 30 now appears to belief few beneath 70, and that is true of both political parties.

“On the proper, Donald Trump is 72, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is 76, and the ranking Republican senator, Orrin Hatch, is 84. And while the House speaker, Paul Ryan, is just 48, he’s set to retire in November, leaving it open as to who will exchange him.”

New York Magazine: “Millennials Have to Begin Voting Before the Gerontocracy Kills Us All” — “The USA, circa 2018, seems to be like a spot run by individuals who know they’re going to die soon.

“As ‘as soon as in a lifetime’ storms crash over our coasts five occasions a yr — and the White Home’s own climate research suggests that human civilization is on pace to perish before Barron Trump — our authorities is subsidizing carbon emissions like there’s no tomorrow. In the meantime, America’s infrastructure is already “below standard,” and set to additional deteriorate, absent lots of of billions of dollars in new funding. Lots of our public faculties can’t afford to inventory their lecture rooms with primary supplies, pay their academics a dwelling wage, or hold their doorways open 5 days every week. Youngster-care prices are skyrocketing, the start price is plunging, and the baby-boomers, retiring. And, amid it all, our congressional representatives just lately decided that the most effective thing they might probably do with $1.5 trillion of borrowed money was to offer giant tax breaks to individuals like themselves.

“There are numerous plausible explanations for why America has embraced ‘carpe diem’ as its governing philosophy. Our ruling political get together is dominated by geriatric billionaires and millenarian Christians; our electoral system provides politicians little incentive to prioritize the nation’s long-term well-being over their constituents’ quick gratification; and the conservative motion’s decades-long assault on ‘massive authorities’ has constrained the public sector’s capacity to take a position sooner or later. But all these causes of American misrule are knowledgeable and exacerbated by this overriding reality: Young individuals vote a lot lower than those that aren’t long for this Earth.”

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.