Occupy age: The movement against ageism

I’m enjoying becoming older.  Not only am I enjoying my life today I’m looking forward to the years ahead as I become even older. I’m curious about what is yet to unfold, yet content to be living in this moment.  I meet many others who feel the same way and numerous others who see the future as one primarily of physical and potential cognitive decline with nothing really to look forward to or plan for in their lives. I believe that enjoying becoming older is something that’s possible for everyone providing we think differently. Needless to say I was delighted when I made this discovery.

A book … This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, by Ashton Applewhite.

Applewhite’s book is thoroughly researched, extremely well-written and an easy read. It’s rare for me to find a book that I have difficulty putting down. This is one of those books.

The penultimate chapter is a crucial challenge that pushes us hard to drop all judgements of older people and about becoming older. Using the analogy of a bullfight and standing in the ring with a bull, along with real life examples of childbirth, dementia, and a paralysed, brain-damaged man, Applewhite reminds us that we don’t know what we’ll think, feel, or do, until we’re actually in the place where the tough choices and decisions are made.

As an ageing populations researcher, evidence for statements and claims made are important to me. However, it takes an exceptional writer to make the facts interesting and weave them into a compelling story that challenges our current thinking.

This Chair Rocks leaves no stone unturned. Memory loss? It’s not inevitable and apparently 20% of people in their 90’s escape cognitive decline (crossing my fingers I’ll be in that 20%). The older body? Love those wrinkles. The nooks and crannies make us more interesting. Sex and intimacy? Yes, we’re doing “it” and Applewhite encourages us to get comfortable with “senior sex”. Work? Baseless stereotypes limit the opportunities and potential for older people to continue working as I have also espoused.  Being independent into our dotage? This was the chapter that challenged my own thinking and inspired me to write about it before I’d finished the book.

I encourage you to buy this book. It’s one of the best reads on ageing I’ve discovered. My own copy has a curled cover, tatty corners, and is littered with markings and comments in the margins – a testament to the compelling content.

In support of Applewhite’s invitation to ‘occupy age’, let me know what actions you take to join the movement against ageism (hints and tips are provided in the last chapter).

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