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Ashton Applewhite

44:55

Episode description

Longevity is here to stay. There’s no disputing that. Retirement as we concocted it in the 50s is all but dead. It’s the age of the 100-year life and the 60-year career. But old patterns and old thinking die hard.

Ashton Applewhite is a big voice in a growing, global movement to blow up all that furry old thinking. The author, ageism activist and social pioneer joins Susan from her home in Brooklyn.

Hear what when:
  • Why ageism happens between your ears

  • Dementia, diapers, drooling - the unfounded fears of ageing

  • Established, surprising fact: The longer people live, the less they fear death - it’s the disproportionate anxiety over negative ideas about ageing that's at epidemic levels

  • Ageism, like all prejudice, relies on sociological principle of “othering”

    “The strange thing about ageism is that that other is our own future, older self.”

  • The many “corrosive” ways ageism feeds on denial instead of continued personal growth and acceptance of change

    ‘Ageing well’ is measured by how much you can look and act like a younger version of yourself.”

  • How she responds to the ageist “You look good for your age”, always intended as a compliment but why mention it and draw comparisons based on age?

    “We tend to use old and young as placeholders for good things and bad things that can occur at any point in our life cycle. People say I don’t feel old when they really mean I don’t feel sexless or incompetent or invisible…. I felt all those things much more when I was 13 and 14 than I do now at 66.”

  • Positive descriptives we should all use instead of lazy, ageist terms

  • Once you start raising your awareness about ageism, you see it everywhere

  • Why older people can be the most ageist of all

  • Research (see Prof Becca Levy - Yale University) shows our attitudes towards ageing affect our minds and bodies at the cellular level, which is compelling argument for making ageism a public health initiative

    “People with a more positive attitude towards ageing, who see it as something other than a decline into uselessness, walk faster, heal quicker.. live an average 7.5 years longer...are less likely to develop dementia even if they have the gene that predisposes them to the disease. The thinking is that a positive attitude helps buffer the stress of living in an ageist world.”

  • Time to ditch the “noxious” term silver tsunami in favour of silver reservoir (coined by social gerontologist Jeanette Leardi)

  • Her recent speech to the UN: “End ageism or the rest is noise.”

  • Signs of international progress against ageism

  • The pesky reality of ‘structural lag’ in policymaking - not solely down to ageism

    “We now have this unparalleled window of opportunity to craft a response to population ageing, to shape the institutions. We have to make new roles for older people - we are making this up.” (listen to previous guest Prof Andrew Scott, The 100-Year Life)

  • The persistent notion that ageing enhances men and devalues women, Susan Sontag’s essay The Double Standard of Ageing (1979)

    “This is how the circle of sexism intersects with the circle of ageism...Managers stop promoting younger women to managerial positions in their 30s... We all know that your ovaries can’t work at the same time as your brain is working.”

  • The joy of sex at any age

  • The cruel paradox of ageing

  • Becoming an Old Person in Training

  • The U-curve of happiness

  • The roots of her ageism activism - how she discovered a discrepancy between positive aspects of ageing and the negative social messaging around it

  • HIgh fives on the dance floor

  • Hopes for her older self

  • How she came to be a clue on Jeopardy, the hit American TV game show

  • Why title her book This Chair Rocks and why it was knocked back by publishers

  • How she’d fight ageism on a global scale if she had unlimited resources

Links Follow The Big Middle

Hosted + produced by Susan Flory

Music: “Beautiful Day” by Sahin Koc

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