Out with ageism

Shelley Kendrick
Shelley Kendrick. Photo by Tracey Walsh

Have you heard of Ashton Applewhite?

She’s an anti-ageism activist who blew my mind recently with her TED talk about the ugly truth of ageism: It’s nothing more than a prejudice against our future selves.

“All prejudice relies on othering — seeing a group of people as other than ourselves,” she says. “The strange thing about ageism? That ‘other,’ is us. Ageism feeds on denial — our reluctance to acknowledge that we are going to become
that older person.”

Last year, Applewhite published her latest book: This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. She’s also a co-founder of Old School (a vetted clearinghouse of anti-ageism resources) and the voice of the new blog: Yo, Is This Ageist?

Aging, Applewhite explains, is a normal, natural process, and our language around it needs to change: No longer calling seniors “cute” or “sweetie” would be a nice start, don’t you think? We even do it to ourselves, Applewhite says, arguing that it’s time to stop using the term “senior moment.”

“I stopped blaming my sore knee on being 64,” she says in her TED talk. “My other knee doesn’t hurt — and it’s just as old.”

Whatever differences we may have with those who are older than we are (or younger), we ought to remember we’re all on the same path. 

Though Applewhite is based in New York City, she isn’t the only one who’s figured out how to respect one’s elders, no matter where they are on the spectrum. 

Our cover star this month — Shelley Kendrick, CEO of Ecumen, a nonprofit senior housing and services provider based in Shoreview — reveres and respects seniors. Even as a kid, she sought time with her elders. 

“I was always attracted to the company of older adults,” she says. “I remember how much I loved talking with my great-grandmother. … She really encouraged me, and she was a huge influence on me.”

And it’s not just lip service. Nonprofit Ecumen is innovating to make sure seniors don’t end up isolated in our modern world: Its Abiitan Mill City property opened
in 2016 as the first senior services community in the core of downtown Minneapolis. Yes, older folks want the vitality and life that an urban core can provide.

Ecumen’s Zvago Cooperative Living properties are another example of new options that make sense for older adult health and wellness, including financial. 

It all fits with Ecumen’s mission to innovate, empower and honor seniors to “change how our society views aging.”

Honor for older adults? 

Now that’s something I can get behind.