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Author and activist Ashton Applewhite has been recognized by the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism. She blogs at This Chair Rocks, speaks widely, and is the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, "a book we have been waiting for… that blows up myths seven to a page like fireworks” (Los Angeles Review of Books). In 2016, journalism-website Next Avenue, which is part of the PBS system, named Applewhite its Influencer of the Year, for sparking a revolution against ageism.

 

19, Going on 90

19, Going on 90
Here’s a note that came to me recently from a reader of my Q&A blog, Yo, Is This Ageist? She wrote that:

The other day I was eating lunch with my best friend, when out of the blue she asks me if she was getting neck wrinkles. Since we are both 19, I laughed at her question and told her no. However, she was not convinced and stated that she was going to ask her parents for anti-aging serum in her stocking for Christmas.  Read more...


 

Let’s Put Films to the Applewhite Test

Let’s Put Films to the Applewhite Test
Invented by the sharp American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, a movie passes the Bechdel test if at least two women talk to each other about something other than a man. Low bar, right? Yet surprisingly few movies pass it. I propose the Applewhite test for ageism: a movie passes if two older people talk to each other about something besides falling apart.  Read more...


 

In the Fight against Bigotry, Where Does Ageism Fit In?

In the Fight against Bigotry, Where Does Ageism Fit In?
I wake these days remembering that something awful has happened. Reality assembles itself, and I feel worse. The multicultural, egalitarian, globalized society I hope to inhabit is under assault. Bigotry is ascendant. Racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance—pick your prejudice!—are sanctioned, even celebrated. How do we respond to attacks on those most vulnerable? How does the mission to build a movement against ageism fit into this historical moment?  Read more...


 

Action—Global and Local—against Ageism

Action—Global and Local—against Ageism
October brought me two very different gigs—one on the world stage and one in a Brooklyn community center.

The first was at the United Nations on October 6 to celebrate the 26th International Day of Older Persons. It was thrilling to be in one of the UN’s major meeting rooms, with simultaneous translations for people from all over the world, especially because of the theme—“Take A Stand Against Ageism.” The organizers invited me to give the keynote because they wanted a radical perspective, and I didn’t hold back:

 Read more...


 

Think Old People Will Tank the Economy? That’s Just Plain Wrong

Think Old People Will Tank the Economy? That’s Just Plain Wrong
Many economists agree that, as the number of boomers leaving the workforce swells, younger workers will shoulder ever-greater burdens. Social Security will be bankrupted by all those lazy old people! Medicare exhausted! These dire predictions of economic turmoil are biased, outdated and just plain wrong, and it was great to see a recent article in the New York Times, “Disproving Beliefs About the Economy and Aging,” take aim at them.  Read more...


 

Age Takes Center Stage around the Brexit Vote—Not in a Good Way

Age Takes Center Stage around the Brexit Vote—Not in a Good Way
On June 23, 2016, a referendum (a vote in which everyone of voting age can take part) was held to decide whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 52 percent to 48 percent. The unexpected result generated widespread shock—no surprise, given the far-reaching economic and political consequences. What did take me aback was the vitriol directed at older voters, who were blamed in appalling terms.  Read more...


 

Six More Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism

Six More Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism
Are olders really as much of an economic drag on society as the media portrays?

Absolutely not! People 50 and up fuel the significant, fast-growing, and often-overlooked “longevity economy,” which, according to AARP, accounted for 46 percent of US gross domestic product ($7.1 trillion) in 2012. By 2021 the 50-plus age group is projected to drive more than half of US economic activity, as their spending fuels industries that include apparel, health care, education and entertainment. These statistics capture only part of the economic contribution of older Americans, whose unpaid volunteer work in 2013 was valued at $67 billion. And while “entrepreneur” might conjure up an image of a kid in that proverbial garage, twice as many successful American entrepreneurs are over age 50 as in their early 20s. More resources have always flowed from older generations to younger ones than the reverse.  Read more...


 

Six Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism

Six Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism
You want to reframe the way American culture sees age and aging. What got you started on this path?

About eight years ago I began interviewing people over 80 for a project called “So when are you going to retire?” and reading about longevity. It didn’t take long to realize that almost everything I thought I knew about aging was wrong. I had no idea that people are happiest at the beginnings and the ends of their lives, for example. That the vast majority of Americans over 65 live independently. That the older people get, the less afraid they are of dying.  Read more...


 

Droneliness

Droneliness
Concerned about an onslaught of enfeebled old people? Don’t worry, robots will take care of them! American techno-optimism knows no bounds, and so-called “age-independence” technologies are proliferating like crazy. But in a profoundly ageist culture, the implications can be disturbing. Here’s a critique, based on the latest article to catch my eye.  Read more...


 

What’s Behind the Growing Geriatrician Shortage?

What’s Behind the Growing Geriatrician Shortage?
I was delighted to see an editorial in the New York Times about a crisis in the making, the growing shortage of geriatricians. (Geriatricians are doctors trained to treat older adults. Lots of people don’t know that.) The way the editorial made the case, however, was deeply flawed.  Read more...


 

I’ll Have What She’s Having—Minus the Internalized Ageism

I’ll Have What She’s Having—Minus the Internalized Ageism
“There is also something profoundly liberating about aging,” Dominique Browning wrote in the New York Times. “Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb, ‘I’m too old for this.’” That’s her new mantra, and the title of her essay, which lingered on the Times’s most emailed list for days. Why? People want stories that ring true to their experience of growing older because they include its welcome aspects.  Read more...


 

The “Grandpa in a Nightclub” Problem

The “Grandpa in a Nightclub” Problem
A while ago, Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab ran a piece about the New York Times’ digital branding efforts. It quoted a series of tweets by Max Pfennighaus, who is the executive creative director of brand and marketing at the Times and previously held a similar position at NPR, and whose job is to build the newspaper’s digital brand. He described the core challenge as the “grandpa in a nightclub” problem.  Read more...


 

Having the Talk—Not the One about Sex, the One about Dying

Having the Talk—Not the One about Sex, the One about Dying
A close friend’s grandfather is dying, though no one knows how close to death he is—perhaps months away. Even his doctor seems clueless, although perhaps he’s just not saying. In any case, he’s not asking. And even if everything were in the open and everyone on the same page—a pipe dream, I realize—no playbook would reveal itself. Dying is a concatenation of unpredictable events.  Read more...


 

How do I get old faster?

How do I get old faster?
That’s a question that Dr. Laura Carstensen regularly fields after explaining why older people are happier than younger ones—the basis of the ubiquitous Happiness U-curve. I didn’t really believe the curve existed until I understood why. Carstensen, a psychologist and the founding director of the Stanford Longevity Center, explains it beautifully.  Read more...


 

What’s Missing from Marc Freedman’s Plan to Make the Most of Longer Lives?

What’s Missing from Marc Freedman’s Plan to Make the Most of Longer Lives?
Growing old isn’t new. What’s new is how many people routinely do it. The institutions around us were created when lives were shorter, and the culture hasn’t had time to catch up. The way we respond to this demographic shift has critical social implications.  Read more...


 

Want Older People to Be Healthy? End Ageism

Want Older People to Be Healthy? End Ageism
There’s a lot of disagreement around how to frame the last century’s unprecedented increase in human lifespan. Is it a crisis or an opportunity? Will a “grey tsunami” of incapacitated freeloaders sweep us off our feet, or will we tap into the social capital of millions more healthy, well-educated adults? Are longer lives a blessing or a curse? Experience and ideology shape the responses, of course, but there’s one thing both liberals and libertarians can agree on. What single characteristic of these older Americans will make the most difference? Their health. Living longer looks a lot more attractive when it’s uncoupled from cognitive and physical decline. It’s a lot cheaper too: illness is expensive.  Read more...


 

So I Dyed My Hair White

So I Dyed My Hair White
I’m the incredibly square and lazy woman who has never colored her hair. I inherited my mother’s no-gray-hair gene, and except on my right temple, my hair is brown. For an anti-ageism activist, though, that’s kind of a liability, because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to hide my age. I never believed Ronald Reagan when he said he didn’t dye his hair, did you?  Read more...


 

Beating the Age Barrier in Online Dating

Beating the Age Barrier in Online Dating
A wedding announcement in the New York Times recorded the happy pairing of a couple who met through America’s Test Kitchen. He had founded the TV show and hired her ten years earlier. He was 62; she was 37. The announcement ended with this paragraph:
Both say they have never really given much thought to the difference in their ages. “Others may have concerns, but we don’t,” he said. “I’m in love with someone who sees the same potential in the universe as I do.”
 Read more...


 

Is a Generation of Powerful Women Turning Age into an Advantage? Not Exactly

Is a Generation of Powerful Women Turning Age into an Advantage? Not Exactly
"Could the current cohort of eminent women in their 60s herald an era when aging, for women, ceases to be an enemy, and even becomes a friend?” asks Liza Mundy in the recent issue of the Atlantic.  Read more...


 

Why Would You Even Ask?

Why Would You Even Ask?
“How Old is Too Old To Have Sex?” was the title of a HuffPost Live panel discussion that I took part in last year. As I pointed out during the exchange, the question itself is profoundly ageist. We don’t ask whether people age out of singing or eating ice cream, so why even pose the question when it comes to making love?  Read more...


 

Midlife Malaise and the Happiness U-Curve

Midlife Malaise and the Happiness U-Curve
An Atlantic magazine cover story last October described living past 75 as pretty darn inadvisable. Then, in quite the about-face, the December cover story championed the Happiness U-Curve and the growing body of research showing that we reliably grow happier, almost regardless of circumstances, after our 40s.  Read more...


 

Oh, Grow Up!

Oh, Grow Up!
That was my visceral (and ever so mature) reaction to “Who Are You Calling Grandma?,” a fluff piece in the New York Times about how baby boomer grandparents, especially celebs, are rejecting traditional grandmonikers for hipper titles. Apparently Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, the actress Blythe Danner, lobbied for Woof (unsuccessfully; Lalo won out), while Goldie Hawn’s son saved the day by coming up with Glam-Ma.  Read more...


 

How Problematic Is This Atlantic Cover Story? Let Me Count the Ways

How Problematic Is This <em>Atlantic</em> Cover Story? Let Me Count the Ways
The cover of the October 2014 Atlantic magazine features a white-bearded skateboarder careening crazily above the title of an article that encapsulates American ambivalence about longevity, Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” I wrote a letter to the editor, calling out the unacknowledged ageism that saturates the issue.  Read more...


 

Guess Who’s Confronting Ageism Now?

Guess Who’s Confronting Ageism Now?
Ageism in Silicon Valley has been all over the news lately. “The Brutal Ageism of Tech,” a March 2014 feature story in the New Republic, noted that some male techies, still in their 20s, are contemplating Botox and hair transplants, while middle-aged engineers, a swelling cohort of “highly trained, objectively talented, surpassingly ambitious workers,” are being sidelined “for reasons no one can rationally explain.” Meanwhile, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled “Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem.”  Read more...


 

Finding “Modest Delight” in Asking for Help

Finding “Modest Delight” in Asking for Help
When I moved to a Brooklyn neighborhood with a median age of around 23, I said to myself that it would be time to move again when I could no longer hustle up the subway steps as fast as the kids. In the eight years since, I’ve gotten a little wiser. Now I’m planning to let the hipsters pass or help me with my shopping bags. I’ve even figured out that it’ll be good for both of us.  Read more...


 

Who’ll Be in Charge When We Die?

Who’ll Be in Charge When We Die?
The lines used to be drawn more sharply for me when it came to assisted suicide, now more often called “aid in dying.” After all, I had in-the-trenches experience. My mother was a charter member of the Hemlock Society, the first national right-to-die organization. (It has since merged with Compassion & Choices, which works to “expand choice at the end of life,” and to which I’ve belonged for decades.) She did eventually commit suicide, a decision I’ll probably never fully come to terms with, but which I respect. Because she was unwaveringly clear, so is my conscience. I’ve promised my children I won’t follow their grandmother’s example. But I too hope to control the circumstances under which I die.  Read more...


 

Why Ageism Matters

Why Ageism Matters
In 2007 I started interviewing people over 80 who were in the workforce. At the same time, I was reading and writing about longevity. To my surprise, the more I learned, the greater the discrepancy that emerged between my grim notion of late life and the lived reality. I knew I was onto something.  Read more...


 

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Our Mission

The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.

Notable Quote

"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."

Cicero (106-43 BC)