Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and TED speaker, and I discuss what ageism is. We talk about how the attitude and published article of a prominent physician may be one of the best examples of out-and-out ageism. We discuss the tell tale signs of ageism, why we are our own worst enemies, how to combat ageism and its relationship to all prejudices and other -isms . Ashton's book is available in both written and audio format at Amazon and other book sellers.
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
TED talk: Let’s End Ageism
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Disclaimer: Unedited AI Transcription
You are connected and you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast for those in the Remember When Generation. Today's podcast is available everywhere you listen to podcasts and with video at specifically for seniors YouTube channel. Now, here's your host, Dr. Larry Barsh.
My guest today on specifically for seniors is Ashton Applewhite, an internationally recognized expert on ageism. Ashton is the author of this Chair, rocks, a Manifesto Against Ageism, a co-founder of the old School Anti Ageism Clearinghouse. If you think that's easy to say, she speaks widely at venues that have included the Ted main stage and the United Nations. She's at the forefront of the emerging movement to raise awareness of ageism and to dismantle it in 2022, the decade of healthy aging, which is a un and w h o collaboration named Ashton, one of the healthy aging 50 50 leaders, transforming the world to be a better place to grow older. Welcome Ashton, and thanks for coming on the podcast. We have so much to talk about.
Ashton Applewhite (01:41):
There is a lot to talk about, and we all need to talk about it more than we do. Thank you for having me.
Let's start off with your story. How did you become interested in the field of ageism?
Ashton Applewhite (01:54):
Well it dawned on me in my mid fifties, which was 15 years ago, that this getting old thing was happening to me, and I realized I was deeply apprehensive, sort of vaguely, you know, terrified. And so I started being a nerd, researching longevity and, and interviewing people over 80. And I realized within a matter of months, if not weeks, that everything I thought I knew about late life was way off base, or not nuanced enough or flat out wrong. And it became obvious, you know, so I sort of got a b in my bonnet about why we only heard the bad things about getting older, which I will n you won't catch me brushing 'em under the rug. There are lots of legitimate reasons to be concerned about aging well. However, our fears are way out of proportion to reality. Those fears are bad for us, and we never hear the other side of the story. And the reason it became clear very soon was ageism bias on the basis of age, both between our ears and in the world around us.
An attitude about aging was voiced by a prominent physician in 2014. I guess we'll mention the name Ezekiel Emanuel. He published an article in the Atlantic entitled, why I Hope to Die at 75. He argued that at 75 he will have lived a full and complete life, having seen his children grow to adulthood and his grandchildren born and beginning their lives. He postulated that many of us will be disabled, faltering, and declining, robbed of our creativity and ability to work. He feared being no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged, but rather as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic. Just for people who may not know or remember who Ezekiel Emanuel is, he's chairman of the University of Pennsylvania's, department of Medical Ethics and Healthcare policy served in an advisor to former President Barack Obama on healthcare policy. Using your words. I want to ask you a question. Yo, is this ageism?
Ashton Applewhite (04:28):
You know, it's, it's such a textbook version of both ageism which is discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of age and ableism, which is making assumptions about people's you know, capacities and their value as human beings based on how we assume their minds and bodies function. So my first comment is, I can't wait to see Ezekiel Emanuel at 74 eat those words with ketchup on top. He is the epitome of privilege in this culture. He is really smart, he is really ambitious. He is really capable. He is white, he is well educated. He has a bunch of money and he, em, you know, sim is, sim symbolizes everything are hyper capitalist culture, values, productivity, speed achievement. Those values are not kind to anyone who is a woman who is not white, who might have a disability and so on and so on.
Ashton Applewhite (05:34):
And there was so much in his article to take issue with. You know, in particular, sort of the presuming the, the sort of judgment that old life when we're no longer young is simply not worth living. And not only does study after study show that people are happiest at the beginnings and the ends of our lives, it's called the uur of happiness. And that's one of the things I learned 15 years ago. I was like, whoa. I thought it was all supposed to be awful. That's not what the science shows, but this presumption that lives when you are not hitting a, you know, net a ball over the net at, you know, a hundred miles an hour or making a zillion dollars that those lives are not worth living, is incredibly arrogant and incredibly ignorant. The story of Ezekiel's Emmanuel's own father belies it.
Ashton Applewhite (06:26):
He's a doctor. Guess what he decided? I forget the exact thing. I haven't reread it in a while, but in his late seventies or eighties not to operate anymore, he continues to consult. You know, Emmanuel's dad describes his life as full of pleasure and meaning. So think what it means for Emmanuel to be unable to see that. You know, it's just the, the, there is abundant ev evidence everywhere around us in the older people we know, in the people listening to this podcast right now, that although we don't continue to operate in all domains the way we used to, there are enormous gains as well as losses, right? We gain all kinds of emotional intelligence. We know ourselves better, we have more confidence, women in particular, and so on and so on. So, his premise that age turns people into useless, miserable burdens is frankly not only false and not backed up by the data, but anti-human function of incredible privilege and disgusting.
So why is ageism acceptable when other isms are not?
Ashton Applewhite (07:41):
Well, I don't think I think ageism is less questioned than other forms of bias. I think they are all too acceptable. I think we, obviously, you don't have to be a genius to say we have a long way to go towards racial equality in the United States towards gender equality. Look at the gender wage gap, which closes by a few pennies every year and so on. So I don't think any, I think all of them are too acceptable. But I think we, we started thinking about those other forms of bias earlier than we've started thinking about age bias. But I take enormous hope and, and I see it, you know, I see the evidence around me that because people have started to really think hard ever since the civil rights movement and the second wave women's movement in the seventies, 1970s, we understand much more about these forms of bias and how they take up, you know, lodging inside our brains and how we can confront them in our personal lives, our professional lives. Everything we learned about those forms of bias is applicable to an enormous degree to addressing age bias. So we're, we're talking about ground that is already plowed or a, you know, sled that is already in motion. It is a much smaller ask to say, why should we tolerate discrimination on the basis of age, you know, now than it was to say 60 years ago? Gee, a woman could run a big company as well as a man.
And are those of us who are in our eighties and nineties our own worst enemies sometimes? As far as ageism is concerned,
Ashton Applewhite (09:24):
I love that question. And, and I mean, one of the you know, I came into this knowing nothing. I had no degrees, I had no professional affiliations. And one of the many things that completely bold me over at the beginning like that, like that fact that people are happiest at the ends of their lives and when they're kids and I'm happy to talk about why, why that is was the fact that older people can be the most ageist of all. It didn't make any sense to me, but then it took me a while to realize no prejudice makes sense of any sort. We live in a culture that barrages us with negative messages about how awful it's gonna be to grow old and how tragic it's going to be to encounter any kind of impairment. And unless we stop to question them consciously, they become part of our identity as internalized bias.
Ashton Applewhite (10:18):
That's what's going on. For example, when we blame every ache and pain on getting older and as someone with severe arthritis, I have plenty of those aches and pains, but as I say in my Ted talk, borrowing an old joke, I stop blaming my sore knee on my age because my other knee doesn't hurt and it's just as old. So that's an example of a thought pattern. You know, maybe it hurts, but it probably hurts because you, you know, were, were kneeling, did a lot of lifting. Maybe that's why your back hurts. You know, look at the reason beyond age to the way other things shape our opportunities and don't reflectively blame things on aging.
How do we recognize when we are becoming ages?
Ashton Applewhite (11:04):
Yeah. Well the good news is it's super simple because you're ageist, <laugh>, <laugh>. We are all ageist. Everyone is biased. No, I, I, I don't, I not only do I have an no judgment, if you can acknowledge your bias, which is the hardest and most necessary part of all of this, and it's brave because no one wants to admit that they're biased. However, we can't confront bias unless we're aware of it. And most bias is unconscious. So first of all, you are <laugh>, but the goal is to become more aware of it, because then in that we can, you know, work on ways to have it shape our language and our attitudes and our what comes out of our mouth less. A really good exercise for that is to think about how you use the words young and old. You know, do you people say, I don't feel old.
Ashton Applewhite (11:59):
What they really mean is I don't feel decrepit, or I don't feel ignorant. I don't feel useless, I don't feel ugly. Those are all things that we can feel at any point in life. So use the thing you actually feel, right? I felt all those things worse at 13 than I ever have in adulthood. So use the actual word. And another habit to think about breaking is, and again, no judgment, we all do this, but when you get to a meeting or a social engagement do you make a beeline for people your own age? That's a good habit to try and break at a dinner table. You know, do you go sit next to the person you know best or the person who looks the most like you? Try to mix it up because it's really important to try to make friends of all ages, because that is how stereotypes of that age get broken down. Because the minute you're around people who don't look like you, you are forced to acknowledge like, oh, not everyone who has that color skin or, you know, behaves in such a way is like everyone else, obviously,
But you are only as young as you feel. Age is just the number. <Laugh>, am I being ages?
Ashton Applewhite (13:15):
I would say so, you know, because you are as old or as young as the number of times you have circled the sun and language. That's another thing to look for. That touches on what I just said, language that centers youth like a young at heart, or you're only as young as you feel, emphasizes the very sort of cornerstone of ageism, which is that young is bad. I mean, young is good and old is bad. So what I want is a world where we acknowledge our age, we say how old we are, but then it recedes because it says so much less about us than we think it does. We live in such age segregated silos, all of us, no judgment that we give age more sort of prominence than it deserves. We think it has more to do with affinity than we think it does.
Ashton Applewhite (14:09):
When we say age is just a number, it's sort of a way of brushing that number under the rug. And another fact that I wish I could impart to sort of every brain in the universe would be that the longer we live, the more different from one another. We become the, the nerdy way. You know, doctors say the defining characteristic of late life is heterogeneity. Every newborn is unique. Seven year olds are more, you know, have more in common developmentally, cognitively, socially, physically than 27 year olds and so on out. So the older we are, the less the number reveals about us.
<Affirmative>, I just spoke with a woman, I won't mention any names in her nineties, who very excitedly told me she just got two new clients. And I think that, yeah, that's wonderful. I am proud of myself that at 86 I started this podcast,
Ashton Applewhite (15:17):
As you showed
Me, again, I'm, I'm trying to get over these ageism concepts,
Ashton Applewhite (15:24):
Self self-fulfilling stereotypes. There's a terrific physician named Becca Levy, who wrote a wonderful book I can recommend called Breaking the Age Code, which is about how these self-limiting beliefs affect how our minds and bodies function. They harm our health. So it does, you know, but, but it, it's a, it's a bit of a cliche, but you are never too old, and it is never too late. You might be too lazy, you might be too out of shape. You might not have enough money. You might be sick of doing that because you've been doing it for X years, but the reason is never age itself. I just wanna point out though, that we live in a culture, and that is what shaped Ezekiel Emanuel's toxic view is that if you are not doing and making, making a thing, making money with women, it's often phrased as keeping busy than you are somehow less valuable.
Ashton Applewhite (16:22):
And many older people are quietly embarked on what may be the most challenging task of our entire lives, which is to make meaning of our lives and to do a life assessment and to figure out how we want to be in the world in our last, you know, last third and, and who we want to be. That is a comp, an incredibly important activity. And I don't ever want people to feel there's so much discourse about, you know, you have to have purpose and you have to give back your purpose. Your purpose can be to make a really good podcast. Your purpose can be to watch the roses bloom in the spring. You don't have to feel that you have to jump out of that airplane, you know, all those pictures of the skydiving octogenarians in order to do aging, quote unquote right, or well or successfully. One of my least favorite phrases, if you wake up in the morning, you are aging successfully. And I don't want people to ever think they have to hold themselves to some standard of achievement that is crafted by a society that does not have our best interests at heart and feel bad about yourself.
You just brought up three points that I really want to talk about.
Ashton Applewhite (17:35):
I know it's not everything touches on everything else because aging is not something sad and sickly that old people do. Aging is how we move through life. We are aging from the minute we're born, and it touches on every domain of human experience.
How does aging our attitude about aging affect our health, body and mind?
Ashton Applewhite (18:05):
Yeah, it's a, it's a huge topic in a growing body of really interesting evidence shows that it that these attitudes affect how our minds and bodies function at the cellular level. Much of it has been done by bek, although there's new evidence from a, a big study about everyday ageism, sort of those slights that you hear, you know, are you, you, you know, too old for this? From come perhaps between our ears for perhaps from someone condescending to us or ignoring us as older people, and those exposure to those daily, everyday ageism, microaggressions, which are these little often unconscious comments affect our, our blood pressure. They affect our heart health of our heart. They affect depression. They have a whole range of documented health effects. My favorite sort of most sort of mic drop e study done by Levy shows that people, she puts it as people with more positive attitudes towards aging.
Ashton Applewhite (19:11):
To me, that sounds like sort of age washing. You know, you're only gonna think about the happy stuff. And I think it's really important to discuss the scary stuff. So I say people with more accurate attitudes towards aging are less likely to get Alzheimer's, even if they have the gene that predisposes them to the disease. So I'm hoping that the US will, will launch an anti ageism campaign as a public health initiative. The UK is about to do it. Australia did it three years ago because one thing we are in charge of, not that it is easy to change mindsets that we have, you know, held all our years because of the culture we inhabit, is to examine your own attitudes towards age and aging. Become aware of your bias, because the minute you see it in yourself, then you start to see it in the world around you.
Ashton Applewhite (20:04):
That just happens. It's like letting a genie out of a bottle and that can undo the positive, you know, the, the negative health effects of thinking, oh my God, you know, I don't know where my glasses are. That must mean I'm going to get Alzheimer's. Because the anxiety that you might get Alzheimer's makes you more likely to get Alzheimer's Anxiety is bad for us, and of you say, crap, I can't find my glasses. But you know, Alzheimer's is not typical of aging and Alzheimer's rates are dropping fast. It's a terrible disease. You know, I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about it, but again, it's a perfect example of how our fears are out of proportion to the reality and that fear itself, which, you know, in the broadest sense, fear is profitable. Fear sells things. Fear in this case makes people buy, you know, mind game brain games, you know, that make you better at brain games, but don't confer any documented resistance to ageism. What we do know is that addressing your own age bias and learning more about what age and aging is actually about for most of humanity, that will protect you, all kinds of health benefits.
I mean, even in the A A R P magazine <laugh>, you'll enjoy using the jitterbug flip two, our easiest cell phone ever. Big numbers. Now, I'm, again, I'm not making light of the fact that as we get older, our eyesight isn't as good, and maybe no kidding our technical capability. But come on, not everybody over 55 needs a big number cell phone.
Ashton Applewhite (21:56):
Well, A A R P could play an incredibly important role here. Their magazine has by far the biggest population of any magazine in the United States, but they only got permission to use the word ageism in their communications a few years ago. They are never going to change the culture. What is gonna change the culture is what has always changed the culture, which is popular resistance to discrimination. And that is why I do the work I do, which is to help catalyze a grassroots movement like the women's movement to raise awareness of, you know, of discrimination and what to do about it, what you touch on with the big, you know dials on the phone or, you know, whatever has to do, of course, with physical and cognitive capacity. And that is, I mean, much of our anxiety about ageism, aging legitimately is about how our minds and bodies may change, but that's not actually ageism.
Ashton Applewhite (22:57):
That is ableism stereotype typing and prejudice and discrimination on the basis of having some sort of incapacity, which of course is a spectrum. So the fact is that if the phone is easy to use and the dials are easy to read, that is good for everyone. And what we need to work here. There's an interesting thing called the curb cut effect, which is that when the Americans with Disabilities Act went through, they had to start making every curb, street curb, street corner, curb with a ramp. And of course, that was, that was designed to enable wheelchair users to get up and down the curbs, but guess who used them? People pushing strollers, people pulling you know, wheelie suitcases, people pushing delivery carts. The minute something becomes universal and ubiquitous, we all start using it and it loses its stigma. So I would like to see all these products made for, you know people so that people of all abilities could use them, and then they wouldn't have their taint.
Ashton Applewhite (24:03):
We also need to work on our own internalized ableism as well as ageism. You know, my eyes don't work as well as they used to. My, I'm totally deaf in one ear. Am I disabled in some circumstances? I am in a crowded room. I am talking to you, not so much. So that is some part of our bodies is going to fall apart, and we need to work together. All of this is the work of a lifetime. We need to engage in it with others. But to question that that that feeling in us no judgment, we're like, oh, I don't need that big thing, or I don't need that helping hand. Well, you may not need it now, but you're gonna need it a few years down the road. In all likelihood, why are you furious that someone offered you a seat on the bus?
Ashton Applewhite (24:53):
Think about where that reaction comes to in your own mind and why. The fact of being identified if someone who might need help, because you might appear, you know, a little tipsy, sorry, you know, as in not having the best balance in the world, or simply older or, you know, you, you, you, that's how you look. And yes, the world perceives you more negatively than it ought to because we have an undone ageism and ableism in the culture, but also the offer of a seat is a nice thing. It, it rec, you know, it's a kind gesture, and there's nothing wrong. You know, I'm grateful when someone offers me a seat. If I'm getting off the, you know, the subway soon, I say, no, thanks. If I have a long ride, I say, you bet. And to, to not to work again on our own attitudes to think about why that is stigmatizing, because we are in charge of the value we attach to those experiences and our feelings about them.
Thank you. Because someone did offer me a seat on an airport bus. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I was annoyed,
Ashton Applewhite (26:03):
<Laugh>. Yeah, it's hard. And I hope you don't think I'm making my finger at you, because we have a lifetime of living in a society which says to ask for help or need help is shameful. And that is a terrible, toxic idea. We need help lifelong from when we're children. If you, if you're, if you're raising a kid or looking after anyone, if you hurt your foot, if you're in a car accident, if you get sick and then you get better. And I have to say, it is especially hard for men because men age well by, you know, by moving, continuing to move, like younger versions of themselves do. I'm not, this is, this is not what I actually believe. This is the central narrative of, of capitalism in an ageist, sexist, you know, patriarchal world, women age, well by appearing, appearing to not age. Guess what?
Ashton Applewhite (26:55):
That standard is not possible. It sets us up to fail. It pits us against each other. And there should be no shame in asking for help and offering help. You shouldn't feel like someone's gonna bite your hand, you know, offer the, offer the help in a way that enables the person to say, no thanks. Right? Don't grab the hand of someone with a white cane at the elbow, you know, at, at a street corner. Say, can I help you? Would you like a chair? And listen to and respect the answer? But you know, I, I hope, I hope you, I'm thank you for telling that story and being vulnerable, because it is by reflecting on what your, your reaction says about your own attitudes. That's where, I hate to say it, but that's where, you know, it is in those moments of profound discomfort that our attitudes change.
Of course, my son did laugh,
Ashton Applewhite (27:49):
<Laugh>. Well, I hope you picked him.
I threw him off the bus.
Ashton Applewhite (27:53):
There you go.
One of the things that attracted me to your TED talk, and the, one of the big reasons I asked you if you'd be on the podcast was your different attitude about aging than a couple of the men I've spoken to about the same subject.
Ashton Applewhite (28:15):
What was their, how would you describe their attitude?
As we get older, we get more dignified, we get more we get stronger more independent.
Ashton Applewhite (28:37):
No, I mean, I, I, you know, none, first of all. Well, there are only two inevitable bad things about getting older. Only two people you've known all your life are gonna die, and some part of your body is gonna fall apart. Cognitive decline is not inevitable. About 20% of the population escapes it entirely. We all know some of those, you know, sharp 90 year olds, most of us lose some processing speed, but that's all. We lose this myth, this ideology that we can keep. I mean, being stronger, no one gets stronger after age 30, we start to lose muscle mass. It's a fact. You can go to the gym every day. You can maintain your strength. You can be stronger up to a point than you were when you were young because you were a couch potato or, or an athlete, whatever. But eventually this narrative that you can prevent your body from changing sets you up to fail.
Ashton Applewhite (29:35):
And that is, you know, it's, it's, you could make an analogy to women who have, you know, dye their hair to cover the gray and have Botox and have cosmetic surgery. No judgment about any of this. This, this is hard. And we, especially in a culture that tells us constantly, right? That we're in this horrible race against the inevitable and competing against each other. That's the overarching toxic narrative. But we gotta do this stuff in our own way, in our own time. Lots of people, you know, exercise a lot and stay fit. That is fantastic, but you are not going to be able to continue to move or look like your younger self. And as long as that is the goal, it's also profoundly classist. You know, gyms and leisure, those things are expensive. Tons of people around the world don't have access to them. That's why tons of, you know, people with, you know, with less money and assets, black and brown people predominantly, often in the millions don't get to age at all. Right? This whole thing is also embedded in racism and ableism. You know, if you are, if you are marking your value as a human being by how much money you make and how fast you can run, those standards are going to not do not serve you well. And the longer you live, the less well they serve you.
Other cultures are not as ageist as here in the United States. Am I correct?
Ashton Applewhite (31:08):
You know, there are the, the, the, the forces that have propelled ageism around the world are global capitalism, which equates the value of a human being with how fast they move, how quick they think, how much money they make industrialization, which moves people out of the, out of and urbanization, they go hand in hand. You know, when people live in small communities where people of all ages are visible and have their role to play in society, there's less ageism because you're surrounded by people of all ages doing their thing, right? So everywhere, I mean, look at China, you know, people always think like somewhere in the east, it must be better to grow old societies where there was Confucianism ancestor worship a value of Phil piety where children are very subservient to their elders. Those are all values that place a higher value on older people.
Ashton Applewhite (32:10):
I will make myself unpopular with most of your listeners by pointing out that those are societies where it is not great to be young. And I don't want a world where older people are more valuable than younger people. I want a world where age is stripped away and where you are valuable as a human being, no matter whether you are seven or 77. And we have a tremendous example of cultures that value their older members right here in the United States with indigenous cultures, partly because they live more, continue to live more in age integrated societies. So it's important to, you know, zoom out and look at the bigger forces at work. Always
This chair rocks a manifesto against ageism. The Los Angeles Review of Books said, along comes Ashton Applewhite with a book We have been waiting for. Anti ageism now boasts a popular champion, activist and eist in the lineage of Marshall and Dorothy Parker until this chair Lo rocks, they left out the rest of it.
Ashton Applewhite (33:25):
We haven't had a single compact book that blows up myths seven to a page like fireworks. Tell us a bunch of book.
Ashton Applewhite (33:36):
Well, I, you tell people about the book because I wrote the book. So, of course I, it's hard for me to be not biased about it. But I think it is a very good book. I think, you know, it is sort of, I mean, I, i, here I will say this about the book. I think it is impossible. I, I will say that it's available in paperback, it's available as an audiobook read by me in all kinds of different formats. It's available in increasing number of translations, which is exciting, and that it is impossible to read my book and come away without feeling an awful lot better about the years ahead and an understanding of the larger forces at work that want us to be fearful and stay in the dark. And I also think it's fun to read, but of course I'm biased, so I would love it if you told readers what you thought of it.
Okay, let me see if I can make this sound like a book review. This Chair Rocks is a must read for all generations, but an absolute read for those in our sixties and beyond. It's a funny, inspiring, enlightening, and informative call to action and a guide to living better as we age. It's available on Amazon, and I assume pretty much everywhere else. Yes.
Ashton Applewhite (35:02):
And speaking of where things are available, if I can just to let people know about a website called The Old School Clearinghouse, which the, the URL is old school.info, and it is a repository of hundreds of free, carefully vetted resources about ageism, what it is, how it works, what it smells like when it quacks, and what you can do about it. And you can find my books. You can find my Ted Talk. You can find Becca Levy's book. You can find podcasts like this one, infographics, webinars, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Whatever speed and format speaks to you, spend a little time noodling around old school for sort of one stop shopping and everything is free, except the books to, because this movement is young. And I thought a couple years ago, wouldn't it be great if there was a central place where people could come to and find all the best resources to, to learn about ageism?
And what is, yo, this is Ageist.
Ashton Applewhite (36:09):
Yogist is a blog I started, jeez, gosh, over 10 years ago, modeled on the wonderful preexisting blog. Yo is this racist, which with permission, which this guy started because we are awkward, I think when it comes to talking about race. What's a place where you could ask a question? I modeled, yo, is this Ageist on that? Because I think conversations about age and ageism are new. These are new ideas to most of us. So you can ask me a question about something you have done or seen or heard an ad. We just, someone just sent in something about a oh shoot, I can't remember the name of the company. So I won't, so you can cut this out. And I wanna let people know my website is this, chair rocks.com, and you can get to yo as this ageist through that, or again, through the old school email@example.com. I try to be funny. And I am, I try to be very thoughtful because these are, you know, these are important ethical questions also, it's just my opinion and the landscape is changing fast. Your experience is your experience. You're not gonna agree with me all the time, and there is nothing wrong with that.
How can we join you in the movement to end ageism?
Ashton Applewhite (37:33):
Well, I would say I'm, I will be happy to send you a link to, I sort of have a, a, a blog post that has a lot of suggestions in a row. My blog, this chair rocks.com/blog, I've been thinking out loud there for 15 years. So it's searchable by topic. If something interests you in particular, the most important step is to look at your own attitudes towards age and aging, because we can't challenge bias unless we're aware of it. If you another thing you can do is to try and make friends with people of all ages. You can't just go grab a young person by the, by the back of the neck and say, Hey, I want to be your friend cuz you're young, but think of something you like to do and find a mixed age group to do it with.
Ashton Applewhite (38:24):
If you want a little bit higher lift, start a consciousness raising group or even just a discussion group around age and aging, because we don't talk about this stuff enough. It's really interesting and it's, if it's mixed age, that's good for everyone because we live in such an age siloed society. And if more, you know, younger people had friends who are older, they would see all the ways in which aging enriches us. And we would remember how hard it is to be young, right? It's easy to be resentful of younger people. And in fact, would, you know, I don't know anyone who on reflection wants to go back to their youth even in an ages society. So talk about that stuff. And I will say that on old school we've created conversation guides and consciousness raising guides. Free download. You can adapt them, you can use two words out of them.
Ashton Applewhite (39:19):
You can plagiarize the whole thing cuz it's not plagiarism cuz we put it out there for people to use. So one is called who me, ageist for looking at your own age bias, us ageist sexist, who me? For how ageism and sexism inform each other. Ra a just racist to me how racism and ageism play off each other, because I know this is a big ask, but we're not gonna undo ageism without undoing racism and sexism and all the rest because these are systems that build on and require each other right to they, they support each other. The flip side of that, that seems like a, you know, a really, sometimes always, it almost feels physically weighty. That idea of these interlocking systems, you know imposing systems, externally imposing valuation on each of us as human beings. But activism is intersectional also. The minute you, you learn more, you become more aware of your bias.
Ashton Applewhite (40:21):
Any kind of bias, you chip away at the fear and ignorance that underlies any bias. And you can draw on that uncomfortable but liberating thought process. The next time you find an assumption clicking into place on the basis of someone's skin, color, of their body, TA type. And again, not only no judgment, if you can begin to do that, it's hard, it's uncomfortable, it's brave, and it's so important. And it does make you, I think you tell me, Larry, but it makes you feel better because you go, oh, this is a more generous, more accurate way of being in the world as a human being who cares about other human beings.
<Laugh>, deep breath,
Ashton Applewhite (41:10):
Deep. I mean, does that seem like totally rainbow unicorn? I mean, I do believe it and I don't think it's just because I'm an activist who's focused on social justice. I think, you know, I think it's what most humans would like to live in a world that values most humans.
I think so too.
Ashton Applewhite (41:24):
For everybody listening, all of these links will be at Ashton's section of the website, specifically for seniors.com. I'll I'll link everything there as well as trying to do it in editing so people watching can get some of the links as well. Ashton, this has been wonderful. I really appreciate you coming on.
Ashton Applewhite (41:54):
You are so welcome. It's been a pleasure.
Speaker 1 (42:01):
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Author and activist
An internationally recognized expert on ageism, Ashton Applewhite is the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. A co-founder of the Old School Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse, she speaks widely at venues that have included the TED mainstage and the United Nations, and is at the forefront of the emerging movement to raise awareness of ageism and to dismantle it. In 2022 the Decade of Healthy Aging, a UN + WHO collaboration, named Ashton one of the Healthy Aging 50: fifty leaders transforming the world to be a better place to grow older.