Anne Karpf, a British journalist and sociologist and the author of How to Age, wrote an op-ed published in the New York Times (1/4/2015) entitled “The Liberation of Growing Old.”
In it she pointed out that while attitudes about aging have definitely changed since ancient times, when people too old to work were left to die, the senior population continues to be seen as a burden and a potential drain on a society’s resources. In addition, the words “senile” and “geriatrics” are perjorative words in our lexicon. However, growing old is not a disease that can be cured; it is a part of life and if we are lucky enough, we too will grow old. If offered the chance, would any adult reading this passage want to return to the trauma of his/her teenage years?
Karpf reminds us that such continued negative thinking about aging (gerontophobia) is, indeed, a “prejudice against one’s future life.” Finding ways to enrich life at all stages of development from the very young to the senior makes life better for society as a whole. Rather than striving to maintain independence, we should value the idea of interdependence between generations. Intergrational Programs such as the Intergenerational School in Cleveland, Ohio, which utilizes the skills of its senior population to boost the academic skills of its impoverished K-8 student population, as well as our own beloved Bridges Together are working to change age-long attitudes about aging and growing old.
What do you think? Here are the responses to her piece that were published a few days later in the New York Times, including one from Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, an organization dedicated to intergenerational efforts at the national level. (Generations United, by the way, has a great intergenerational newsletter too– sign up for it on the home page.)