Episode 20. Hitting Back at Ageism with Ashton Applewhite
This episode hits close to home for most of us over 50. Against our will, we find ourselves sidelined, overlooked, bypassed … becoming more and more isolated as we age. That’s AGEISM – and it is a serious problem in America. It causes loneliness, depression, illness…. and can literally cut years off our lifespan.
Our guest doesn't take this lying down. ASHTON APPLEWHITE is a fierce advocate for taking a stand against ageism. In this no-nonsense talk with Host Julian G. Simmons, she attacks this insidious scourge that permeates our society. She doesn't just rant and rave like a surly senior. Ashton's agile mind is an arsenal of facts, and she unleashes them in a devastating rapid-fire assault that will both educate and embolden anyone who listens.
You owe it to yourself to do just that: LISTEN NOW.
One of her most surprising revelations is that we can be our worst enemy, guilty of what she calls "internalized ageism." We buy into the prejudice that shuns us and we just play along, sheepishly stepping aside. The good news is we can change our own internal ageist attitudes into a force for change. Good change.
In many ways, ageism was the impetus for OURGENPOD. We found ourselves slowly being cut off from the working world we loved, and not by choice. The phone gradually stopped ringing, and the jobs on which we used to rely eluded us. We not only suffered financially, but felt that sense of purpose -- vital to a happy, active life -- fading away. Hearing the same story from many friends and former co-workers, we started this podcast as a place where we could produce intelligent, entertaining content aimed at our generation -- folks over 50 -- that would address our concerns, share ideas, and maybe do some good.
This episode is a perfect fit for OURGENPOD. Ashton is a fun and lively speaker. She has a lot to teach us -- and we urge you to not only listen in, but buy her book. You'll be glad you did.
All about Ashton--In her own words:
Aging isn’t a problem to be solved. Or a disease to be cured. Or something icky that old people do. It’s how we move through life, and more of us are doing more of it than ever before in human history. What stands between us and making the most of these longer lives? Ageism: judging, stereotyping, and discriminating against people on the basis of how old we think they are.
Photograph © Adrian_Buckmaster
Solve for ageism and we also address sexism (aging is gendered), ableism (disability is stigmatized), and racism (which denies multitudes the chance to age at all). So I’ve written a book. I blog about it. I led the team that developed Old School, a clearinghouse of anti-ageism resources. I am the voice of Yo, Is This Ageist? (Go ahead, ask me.) I speak widely. All efforts to help catalyze a grassroots movement to raise awareness of ageism and how to dismantle it.
I didn’t set out to become a writer. I went into publishing because I loved to read and didn’t have any better ideas. I had a weakness for the kind of jokes that make you cringe and guffaw at the same time, my boss kept telling me to write them down, and the collection turned into the best-selling paperback of 1982. I was a clue on “Jeopardy” (“Who is the author of Truly Tasteless Jokes?” Answer: “Blanche Knott.”), and as Blanche made publishing history by occupying four of the fifteen spots on the New York Times bestseller list. I regret having written the books, but I wrote them.
My first serious book, Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well, was published by HarperCollins in 1997. Ms. magazine called it “rocket fuel for launching new lives,” and it landed me on Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum enemies list. It also got me invited to join the board of the nascent Council on Contemporary Families, a group of distinguished family scholars. I belonged to the Artist’s Network of Refuse & Resist group that originated the anti-Iraq-invasion slogan and performance pieces titled “Our Grief is Not a Cry for War.” As a contributing editor of IEEE Spectrum magazine, I went to Laos to cover a village getting internet access via a bicycle-powered computer. I was on staff at the American Museum of Natural History for 17 years, where I wrote about everything under the Sun, quitting in 2017 to become a full-time activist.
The catalyst for Cutting Loose was puzzlement: why was our notion of women’s lives after divorce (visualize depressed dame on barstool) so different from the happy and energized reality? A similar question gave rise to This Chair Rocks: why is our view of late life so unrelievedly grim when the lived reality is so different? I began blogging about aging and ageism in 2007 and started speaking on the subject in July, 2012, which is also when I started the Yo, Is This Ageist? blog.
During this time I’ve been recognized by the New York Times, National Public Radio, the New Yorker, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism and named as a Fellow by the Knight Foundation, the New York Times, Yale Law School, and the Royal Society for the Arts; I’ve written for Harper’s, the Guardian, and the New York Times; and I speak widely, at venues that have ranged from universities and community centers to the Library of Congress and the United Nations. In 2017 I received a standing ovation for my talk at TED 2017, their mainstage event in Vancouver. I’ve received numerous awards for my work. The most head-spinning was being named one of “fifty leaders working to transform the world to be a better place to grow older” by the UN’s Decade of Healthy Aging platform (a collaboration between the WHO) in 2022.
The UN credits my book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, with “acting as a catalyst to raise the consciousness of people around the world on what ageism is and what we can do to dismantle it.” I self-published the manifesto in 2016 because no mainstream publisher recognized the importance of the issue. I subsequently sold the right to Celadon Books, a new division of Macmillan, Inc., which published the book on their inaugural list in 2019.
I co-founded the Old School Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse. which launched in 2018. We curate, create, and commission free resources to educate people about ageism and how to end it, host meet-ups; and collaborate with other pro-aging organizations around the world. Our goal is to help create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live long and to live well.
HONORS & RECOGNITION
named one of The Healthy Ageing 50 by the Decade of Healthy Ageing platform (a collaboration between the UN and the WHO) (2022)
PSS’s Maggie Kuhn Award (2022)
FemaleOneZero’s 40 over 40 – The World’s Most Inspiring Women (2022)
HelpAge USA’s inaugural 60 Over 60 list (2022)
The Village Chicago’s Trailblazer Award (2021)
Member of the 2018 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100
2018 Game Changer Award, Lifetime Arts
Fifth Annual Forbes list of Forty Women to Watch over 40 (2017)
PBS site Next Avenue’s annual list of 50 Influencers in Aging — Influencer of the Year (2016)
Salt magazine’s list of The World’s 100 Most Inspiring Women (2015)