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Join the pro-aging movement

Alicia Colombo

By Jeremy Rodriguez

People are living longer, healthier lives while maintaining a positive view of their own aging. Yet, research shows that the public’s perception of aging is negative, according to the National Center to Reframe Aging. To illustrate the problem with ageism, consider this hypothetical example of an older person who is experiencing knee pain. Many older adults may attribute pain to just getting older and accept it as a fact of life.

“You still need to go get that knee pain checked out,” said Trish D’Antonio, executive director of the National Center to Reframe Aging. “We agree that you’re getting older. We accept your assessment that you have pain in your knee. One is not necessarily the reason for the other. (You may) delay therapy or treatment for yourself because you just attribute it to aging. There are lots of things where ageism can really cause harm — socially and health wise — that we really have to think about.”

The National Center to Reframe Aging is an organization aimed at ending ageism by providing tools and communication strategies to address negative perceptions of aging.

Through research, D’Antonio said they learned that people don’t think much about ageism and that the public thinks of aging as a “battle.” This way of thinking comes from “cultural models that are deeply ingrained in us from when we were very young” that paint a picture of what society envisions as an older person.

“It’s important that we remember that we’re all aging,” D’Antonio said. “We’re aging from birth on. When we (think of) older people (as ‘others’), that kind of puts (forth) a model that we’re not aging, and that it’s somebody else. When, actually, it’s all of us.”

The National Center to Reframe Aging works with local and national organizations and communities to enhance the way in which they talk about aging and to better understand implicit bias about aging.

The NCRA suggests ways in which the public can change ageist language to be more age inclusive. Instead of using negative phrases, such as “tidal wave,” “silver tsunami” and similarly catastrophic terms to describe the growing population of older people, it is suggested that people speak affirmatively about changing demographics, such as “As Americans live longer and healthier lives.”

The center underscores the importance of defining “ageism” whenever using the term: “Ageism is discrimination against older people due to negative and inaccurate stereotypes, and it has a significant impact on health.”

DiAntonio said, “We know from our research that if we start to use well-framed language about older people, that starts to get people to think differently, and people will model our language. People (will) recognize this is something that we all have to pay attention to, and it impacts everyone.”

He noted how the center has worked with organizations, including The Associated Press (AP), to update their style guides for journalists to use when writing news stories. The current edition of the AP Stylebook recommends using the terms “older adults” and “older people” in place of the terms “elderly” and “senior citizens.” However, even though journalists typically follow AP’s guidance, sometimes the people who write the headlines for these articles may use problematic language to solicit clicks from online readers. This is due to search engine optimization (SEO), which is often dictated by the terms that people search on the web or by which links get clicked the most.

D’Antonio thinks this mentality can eventually be changed as the movement to fight ageism evolves. “As we continue to grow the movement – we really see this as a movement – and readers start to say, ‘I am not going to read something like that,’ norms change and people start correcting themselves and use less derogatory descriptions of older adults,” she said. “It just takes time. This is a long-term cultural change. We know that changing culture like this takes at least a generation.”

To learn more about the National Center to Reframe Aging, visit

Jeremy Rodriguez is a freelance journalist, blogger, editor and podcaster.

Categories: Advocacy Education Milestones eNews


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