#endageism

Mel Coppola
I’ve stopped making New Year’s Resolutions. Seems they’re just
another way to set myself up for failure and cause me to feel badly
about myself. Don’t get me wrong — I certainly think the end of the
year is a great time to review and set new goals or intentions for
the new year. Perhaps, you might be saying to yourself, this is just
semantics — different words. And you would be right, of course, but
words can make all the difference in the world, can’t they?

Karen Schoeneman, a long-time culture change pioneer, posted a couple of years ago, that
instead of resolutions, she picks a word for the year — a word that she will think on and act on
each day. That appealed to me when I read it, and I selected the word act. I made a sign for my
office, using the three letters as an acronym for Action Changes Things, as a daily reminder.
Then last year I chose the word Intention. I still wanted to keep act, so my theme became Act
with Intention. This helped me to stay focused on what was important for me and not get
sidetracked from my goals.

As I write this on New Year’s Eve, I have given a lot of thought to my word for this coming year.
Of course, I will still keep Act with Intention, but my word for 2019 will be #endageism. I know, I
know, it’s two words, but I used a hashtag, so I can consider it one word, right? Heck, it works
for me and it’s my word, so #endageism it is!

And I have the perfect opportunity in January to act on my new word. If you have not yet heard
about the “Dress Like a 100-Year-Old Day” in schools, let me tell you about it. Many schools
across the country commemorate the 100th day of school with lots of activities based on the
number 100 — sounds fun, right? And so it should be. I mean I’m all about themed parties. But
somewhere along the line, someone got it in their heads that it would be fun for kids to dress
like 100 year-olds. You can probably guess what these little 100-year olds look like. You got it
— they’ve taken every stereotypical negative attribute about aging and piled them on these
kids…powdered white hair, canes, walkers or walking sticks, drawn-on scowls and wrinkles,
over-sized eyeglasses, and children bent over to simulate osteoporosis. Then they say how
cute they look!

Like Jill Vitale-Aussem, the President and CEO of The Eden Alternative, wrote in her August 30
blog, I too must remind myself that the schools, teachers and parents involved are not doing
this to be cruel or malicious. Unfortunately, their actions reflect the inescapable barrage of
ageism in our society. No other show of outright prejudice would be tolerated, especially in
schools. But the underlying problem is that people don’t really recognize it as a prejudice.
What is needed here is education and it starts with you and me. To be honest, I only became
aware of ageism several years ago. But now I see it everywhere!! Ageism, the last socially
acceptable prejudice, is just beginning to gain public recognition thanks to people like Jill,
Penny Cook of Pioneer Network and Ashton Applewhite of This Chair Rocks, among others. 2/3

Along with Leading Age, Pioneer Network and The Eden Alternative collaborated on a letter we
can use to help schools and teachers shift from this negative representation of aging to a
more positive approach for ways to celebrate the 100th day of school. The hard work has been
done for us — all we need to do is to share the letter with them. This is where my #endageism
word joins with my other words, Act and Intention. This will be one of my first acts of the year
to #endageism. The 100th day of school in my area will be the week of January 21 (the day for
your local school might be different since Florida schools begin in August.)
This one small act, taken by many, can make a major shift in the way children, parents and
teachers see aging. Won’t you join me to #endageism?

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