Ashton Applewhite is ready for a revolution. In 2016, she wrote This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. The radical idea that we’re all guilty of ageism– even against ourselves as we age– led to a series of engaging interviews and a TED Talk that received a standing ovation.
Applewhite lays bare the idea that in the U.S. ageism starts within ourselves. We want to deny we’re aging. We use anti-aging creams. We blame ourselves for our slowing bodies. We make excuses for a culture that does not accept those with greying hair or wrinkles. “Who says wrinkles are ugly? The multi-billion-dollar skin care industry. Who says perimenopause and low T and mild cognitive impairment are medical conditions? The trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry.”
In her TED Talk Applewhite says, “All prejudice relies on ‘othering’ — seeing a group of people as other than ourselves: other race, other religion, other nationality. The strange thing about ageism: that other is us.” The battle against ageism starts within ourselves.
Ultimately, we’re only embarrassed about getting older because we let ourselves be embarrassed. Conversely, people who embrace aging move faster, “do better on memory tests, they heal quicker, and they live longer.” Staying engaged means having a sense of purpose, and having a sense of purpose keeps us engaged with the world.
“When we make the world a better place to grow old in, we make it a better place in which to be from somewhere else, to have a disability, to be queer, to be non-rich, to be non-white. And when we show up at all ages for whatever cause matters most to us…we not only make that effort more effective, we dismantle ageism in the process.”
Listen to her TED Talk: Let’s end ageism
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism traces the roots of ageism in history through today. The book takes a hard look at ageism at work and in romance, finally “describes what an all-age-friendly world would look like, and concludes with a rousing call to action. It’s time to create a world of age equality by making discrimination on the basis of age as unacceptable as any other kind.”
On her website, Applewhite proposes some antidotes to ageism:
- Awareness: Ageism starts within ourselves. When we start sharing stories of ageism in the workplace, or age prejudice in social encounters, we start to realize that it’s not a problem unique to us.
- Integration: we should all strive for a balance of friends and associates of all ages. We can’t fight the problem until those outside our age group realize there is a problem.
- Activism: Facing the problem of ageism starts with challenging ageist behaviors and promoting a way of life that doesn’t place elders in the role of “other”.
Author Anne Lamott says of This Chair Rocks: “Within four or five wise, passionate pages, I had found insight, illumination and inspiration. I never use the word empower, but this book has empowered me.”
Read an excerpt: This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
Read Ashton Applewhite’s blog: Yo, Is This Ageist?
Photo credit: Penn State on Flickr