From commercials to films, American culture is saturated with images portraying young people as the norm. In Los Angeles County, this message is even more pervasive with Hollywood – well known for its emphasis on using younger characters in movies – in the vicinity. With this message everywhere, how can older adults in our society age well and live with dignity and respect?
Fortunately, there are things that every single member of society, regardless of age, can do to tackle this issue and create a more tolerant and inclusive society. Here’s a list of how five different generations can come together to normalize aging:
Silent Generation (those born from around 1925 to 1941): This group includes celebrities like comic-book writer Stan Lee to actor Morgan Freeman. People in this group, regardless of their celebrity status, can organize and use their voices to speak out against ageism, or prejudice and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. Advocacy and connecting with others from other generations can go a long way in changing the conversation on aging.
Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 to 1964): Baby boomers are the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation in the U.S. This cohort can engage with younger generations to improve intergenerational connection. By communicating their wisdom, baby boomers have the opportunity to prove just how valuable older adults are to the success of future generations.
Generation X (born between the early-to-mid 1960s and early 1980s): Gen Xers’ entrepreneurial tendencies can help create a booming marketplace for older people. There is huge gap in the market and lack of products that cater to people in their 50s or older. Gen Xers’ are in a great position, as soon-to-be older adults who have the know-how to develop products and businesses, to meet these needs through innovative solutions. This group could also collaborate with existing companies to enhance their products so that these products take into consideration the needs of older adults. Aging2.0 Los Angeles, a company founded by two Gen Xers Katy Fike and Stephen Johnston, is a great example.
Millennials (born between the early 1980s to mid-1990s): As the largest generation in the USA, Millennials have an important role to play in shaping current culture. Known as the generation most actively using digital communication and technology, Millennials can spread the message of positive aging, both in Los Angeles and beyond.
Generation Z: (born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s): Generation Z is the first to have Internet technology so readily available at a very young age. With their comfort and familiarity with computers, this cohort (about 25 percent of the U.S. population) can engage in assisting their grandparents and other older adults in computer-related tasks. Such connections can only improve intergenerational relationships within families and cities at large.
While these are just a few examples of ways in which each of us can help craft a healthy narrative around aging, there is a lot more that can be done. It is important to remember that in the end, aging affects society because everyone is growing older – from an infant to a grandmother. For instance, we ask “How old are you now?” and answer “I am 10 years old today”. Growing older is nothing to be ashamed of. And the terms “old” and “aging” can actually be positive if we change the narrative. As American actress Drew Barrymore says, “From my perspective, there’s no reason to be afraid of aging, because if you age, you’re lucky! The alternative is death.” If each generation can learn and engage positively with each other, our culture will have value and respect for ALL people.
Rachel Lipsy is a licensed clinical social worker in Los Angeles. She works with older and younger employees of the film industry, creating opportunities for engagement, learning and mentorship.