As we come to the end of 2018, we look at the best stories from the world of ageing, featuring protest movements, a legal first and a Wall Street Journal-recommended stocking filler.
AAA is always looking out for new and exciting ways for technology, enterprise and research to help us all age well. But every now and then we see something that makes us stop for a minute (or several) to truly consider the human factor.
Reading the opening chapter from 'How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations', by Marc Freedman, did just that.
Shared here as a teaser for what the WSJ’s calling the “Best Book of 2018 on Aging Well”, we got to reflect on the importance of inter-generational connection in supporting societal cohesion.
As Marc writes; “There is significant evidence from evolutionary anthropology and developmental psychology that old and young are built for each other. The old, as they move into the latter phases of life, are driven by a deep desire to be needed by and to nurture the next generation; the young have a need to be nurtured. It’s a fit that goes back to the beginning of human history”.
It's inspiring stuff, so based on what we’ve seen so far his book could be the perfect way to kick off your 2019 reading.
Read it in public however and you may be seen as a social agitator, or at least part of a civil rights movement that's quickly gaining momentum.
According to this piece by Jeanette Leardi for Stria News, after several years of significant civil rights movements, the fight to end age discrimination is also gaining traction.
She writes; "In 2011, it was Occupy Wall Street; in 2013, Black Lives Matter; in 2017, the Women’s March, and Me Too; and in 2018, the student-led March for Our Lives". She continues; "Amid all of this socio-political churning, another movement rumbles, quickly growing in volume and awareness: the fight against ageism".
But why now, she asks. One reason is because today sees a generation of older adults who grew up protesting about inequality. These Baby Boomers fought in the 60s and 70s for equality, and with ageism still a part of society they now bring that same energy to the cause.
And with social media providing a platform for that movement to be heard globally - and the unavoidable fact that age will affect us all – it will become hard to ignore.
Is Age Just a Number?
Impossible to ignore this month was the news that a man in Holland wants to make a legal first, by changing his age.
Smirking headlines aside, you can see the rationale for his argument. According to his doctors, Emile Ratelband has the body of a 45-year-old, and in describing himself as a 'young god', the self-belief to match it.
"When I'm 69," he argues, "I am limited. If I'm 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car. I can take up more work". It increases his chances on Tinder (the dating app) too, he says.
We write regularly about ageism affecting older adults' job prospects - regardless of the individual's skills or the proven economic benefit - so it seems logical that in a time when (as Mr Ratelband argues) "...you can change your name and change your gender”, why can't he decide his own age?
It's a thought-provoking argument for sure. Who decides our future - a society that gives us numerous labels from birth, or us? As we await the outcome of Emile's legal battle, let’s take a look through the rest of the month’s news.
Last But Not Least
According to this piece in the New York Times, Mr Ratelband could well have some company. It revealed that research shows regular exercise may keep your body 30 years ‘younger’.
Apparently, a study of a group of active septuagenarians revealed that; "the muscles of older men and women who have exercised for decades are indistinguishable in many ways from those of healthy 25-year-olds". Emile could be on to something.
Then we learnt in this article that some restaurants in Massachusetts, US are 'tweaking' their menus to attract more of the estimated $2.3 trillion spending power of Baby Boomers.
Tradition, mixed with value and a hint of experimentation are the order of the day. But more specifically, this focus on the tastes of older adults has inspired the formation of the Senior Dining Association, billing itself as "the only dedicated association providing resources, education, and networking opportunities for all foodservice professionals in the senior living industry". A fiscally prudent move, we think.
And finally we meet National Park Service ranger, and Glamour magazine cover star, Betty Soskin, who aged 97 is packing out theatres three times a week by telling her story of growing up in a segregated America.
Having taken the job at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California aged just 85, Betty saw that its history was only going to be told from a narrow perspective. Realising she had an opportunity to expand the formal narrative, she began telling the stories of those who might otherwise be forgotten – "Japanese American, Latino American, American Indian, and LGBTQ narratives".
In her own words: "History has been written by people who got it wrong, but the people who are always trying to get it right have prevailed. If that were not true, I would still be a slave like my great-grandmother." A truly inspiring woman.
That’s it for this month. Be sure to follow the Agile Ageing Alliance on Twitter and until next time #BeAgile!
Image used with permission. Copyright Clem Onojeghuo.