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Not Your Grandma’s Ageism!

Ageism is a topic that never gets old—unoriginal pun-wise but true, nonetheless. Ever present in our psyches like the droning background music of a youth-obsessed culture, the inequity of it all is being amplified by voices demanding change.

This past weekend alone, CBS Sunday Morning featured a segment by correspondent, Susan Spencer, Fighting Back Against Ageism in which University of Oklahoma professor Julie Ober Allen introduced the notion of "everyday ageism."

Everyday Ageism

“And everyday ageism is everywhere, said Allen, who conducted a large-scale nationwide survey to assess just how pervasive it really is. She found that more than 93% of older Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 frequently experience everyday ageism interactions and experiences.”

In the same segment, author Ashton Applewhite said, "We live in a culture that bombards us from childhood on, starting with children's books, about how awful it's gonna be to get old, how tragic to encounter any kind of incapacity. And unless we stop to question those messages, they become part of our identity." Getting that word out is Applewhite's singular mission. Her book, "This Chair Rocks," argues for fighting back.

Look no further than Sheryl Lee Ralph, the 65-year-old actress stopped the show at the Emmy Awards in September with her high-decibel victory song: “I am a woman, I am an artist. And I know where my voice belongs."

The 50-plus demographic is the most valuable in the world. Fifty-plus represents nearly half of all adults in the U.S.

"From big name actors to TikTok trends, Boomer women are a force to be reckoned with," reads this headline from The Palm Beach Post, "Baby boomers are changing what aging looks like as they boldly enter their 60s and 70s." From the same article by Jan Tuckwood, which I highly recommend you read, “Growing Bolder, a media company based in Orlando, states the facts on its website: “The 50-plus demographic is the most valuable in the world. Fifty-plus represents nearly half of all adults in the U.S., and to quote Dylan Thomas, they will not go quietly into the good night. They’re working longer, earning more, and spending more. They have more time and more disposable income than any 50-plus cohort in history, and they’re seizing the opportunity of extra years.”

Travel is Targeting Baby Boomers

The hospitality industry has finally stepped up, as Hotels Cater to Travelers Over 50 With New Targeted Marketing, writes Carley Thornell for Skift. “For too long, the golden rule in travel marketing has been to shy away from guests in their golden years. It's time to put age before beauty in travel marketing and reprioritize accuracy over the aspirational.” Well, yay for the effort, and nay for the “time to put age before beauty” part, which implies that people of a certain age aren’t beautiful. Moving along before I go off on a rant…

During the monthly zoom meeting of the Accelerate Women Leaders in Travel advisory board, my friend and fellow board member, Janet Eason shared a recent experience she had at BLLA, the Boutique Hotel Owners Conference in LA, that reframed the ageism narrative for her. At a very well-attended roundtable discussion on the subject, she told us that both women and men of all ages spoke candidly about the fear of aging at any life stage, including a lovely young woman who was freaking out about turning 30! GEEZ!!! Clearly, there is something terribly wrong with a culture that instills fear about the one thing we can all be certain of…AGING! That’s part of the deal here on planet earth.

Circling back to the CBS Sunday Morning segment, Susan Spencer asks Professor Allen, “Well, we have to get rid of these attitudes. How do you do it?"

"I think the first step is increasing awareness, and it's sort of a prerequisite," Allen replied. "But also to really start to make the case that ageism is bad for health – and it is harmful." That's right: ageism is bad for us, mentally AND physically. As a source of chronic stress, it can lead to increased risk for a broad spectrum of different chronic diseases. "We've also found that ageism is associated with premature mortality; people who experience more ageism are much more likely to die at a younger age," Allen said.

“I think that ageism is a cultural illness; it's not a personal illness,” says the extraordinary Frances McDormand. And I couldn’t agree more. Time to build up immunity!!!

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