12/8/16 The Voice of Older Americans in an Age of Anxiety: Staying Visible

Last month, the Radical Age Movement launched its first social action initiative; Age Justice: Getting Our Fair Share.  Age Justice seeks a society where all people, regardless of age and social circumstance, are secure in their homes, respected in their communities and workplaces, and provided the safety, dignity and respect to live full and complete lives throughout the lifespan, from the time of birth until our final years.  In today’s state of anxiety, we need to campaign so that ALL Americans get their fair share, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.

Many older adults want to make a difference in the world but, finding no role for themselves, they often feel they are treated as socially irrelevant.  It is up to us to push back against this common age prejudice, and today we are presented with a rich opportunity to do just that.

We now find ourselves positioned in a notable moment in history where we, as older Americans, need to be both seen and heard.  It is up to us to demonstrate the power we own as “caregivers, resource managers and income generators“.  It is imperative that we share “our knowledge and experience of community coping strategies, while helping to preserve cultural and social identities.” [The invisibility of older people: Being counted means being seen, Previously published for the Hauser Center by Bethany Brown, HelpAge USA Policy and Advocacy Fellow]

What we cannot do is shrink back from civic engagement.  It is both our right and our obligation.  When we shrink back, we are creating our own invisibility.  We older and elder adults all too easily accept the marginalized status quo as signs of wisdom and balance rather than the avoidable and deeply unfair compromise that it actually is.  Locked into a rhythm of society’s active rejection and our own passive acquiescence, we glide into marginality partly through our own volition. Not listened to as carefully at meetings or policy discussions, we pipe down rather step up.

This means that those of us who can show up, show up. It’s time for us to take our lifetimes of experience and knowledge and put it to valuable use…to demonstrate our relevance to all of those who would think otherwise …while making the world a better place.

Because of our years of living, we know that sometimes we have to go down to go up, backwards to go forwards.  We know that communities are the best way to face adversity.  We know that wounds can heal.  Older adults are aware of the greater good as we demand a democratic society, not only for us but for the generations that follow us.  Our battle scars show that we are tougher and wiser than we are given credit for.

Over the coming weeks and months, the Radical Age Movement will be suggesting actions that older adults can take as a group to be heard as we help heal the ailments that have afflicted our society. We invite your own suggestions as we embark on this difficult journey together.