What is Reframing Aging?

There has been a lot of work in the past few years to better understand how we talk about the experience of aging and about the consequences and impact of an aging society.  The TSLCA strongly believes in advancing this work to help create a new narrative on aging.

A nationally known group of sociologists, anthropologists, linguists, psychologists, and communications experts have been working hard figuring out how we can talk about aging and older people in ways that are not stereotyped and instead reflect the reality of our diverse experiences of aging.  These folks are the FrameWorks Institute and they are helping us Reframe Aging.

They are helping us figure out how we can change the culture from seeing aging only as decline, decreased disability, and something to dread or be burdened by, but rather a process that holds opportunity – for individuals, for communities, and for society in general.

The big idea is to change how we communicate to get different results.  People we engage only know so much about aging and our changing demographic, and sometimes have unproductive assumptions about both.  We need tools to engage us all to think about the issues through a different lens.  The Reframing Aging Project helps us understand how people think about and gives us tools to more effectively move people to action.Click here read more about the research on aging by FrameWorks Institute and the Reframing Aging Project. 

Recommendations from the FrameWorks Institute

From their research, the FrameWorks Institute put together some top level recommendations to help to change the conversation on aging.  Here are their recommendations:

Ingenuity

Americans are problem-solvers. When we see an opportunity, we figure out how to seize it—and when we see that something isn’t working, we rethink our approach. Replacing outdated practices with new, smarter ways of doing things is the key to our nation’s ingenuity.

Justice

Right now, our society is not treating older people as equals—in fact, we are marginalizing their participation and minimizing their contributions. To live up to our ideals, we must confront the injustice of ageism.

Building Momentum

As we get older, we gain momentum, with the force of built-up experience and wisdom pushing us forward. Experience and insight add energy and possibility—the ability to contribute to our society’s vitality. With more Americans living longer, this force could power our society to move ahead in new ways.

Name & Define Ageism

Ageism is discrimination based on prejudices about age, however, it is not well or widely understood by the public. When ageism is directed at older people, it often involves the assumptions that older people are less competent than younger people. Ageism has a huge negative impact on older people, throughout all areas of life.  In fact, the impact of ageism and health is widely documented to show that optimistic and positive views of aging lead to a longer life expectancy! 

Be Inclusive

We’re all aging! The more we bring people into the conversation rather than “othering” the more they can see themselves both in the problems and solutions.  As an example, simply changing the conversation from “making sure older people can age at home” to “making sure we can all age at home” shifts the conversation from something that’s happening for a group of people to something we’re collectively involved in.

Explain Implicit Bias

Prejudice is often implicit—meaning, people aren’t even aware of their own prejudices. It is essential to avoid words that bring negative associations, such as “elderly” or “senior” and instead use neutral words like older person or older people. We are all exposed to negative messages about older people, so our brains are wired to form judgments about people based on their age. For example, because of years of exposure to the news and common movie characters, many people subconsciously assume that older people are forgetful, grouchy, or frail. These stereotypes lead to discrimination against older people in many areas of life, from health care to the workplace.

Solutions Matter

Solutions can be strengthened by making sure they are: Conceivable, Casual, Credible, Collective, Concrete. Having credible, concrete solutions are essential in helping to change the dialogue about aging and create progress. There are many things we can do to harness the energy of older people’s ability to contribute to their communities.  One example is programs that bring together older people and preschool children in community centers. By providing opportunities for older people to participate in and contribute to their communities, intergenerational community centers provide benefits for older people and strengthen the whole community.

Learn more

Learn more about the approach to changing public thinking about aging in America by reading Framing Strategies to Advance Aging and Address Ageism as Policy Issues released by the FrameWorks Institute. The goal of the strategy summarized here is to increase public support for policies and practices that can be advanced to support a robust, healthy, age-integrated society.

Want to learn more about how you can help change the narrative on aging?

Check out the resources, tools and webinars available by clicking the links below.

The Gerontological Society of America COVID-19 Updates
The GSA COVID-19 Taskforce is monitoring the outbreak and share resources as develeoped on their COVID-19 Updates page.

AP-APME Aging America Project
A joint project of AP and APME, Aging America will tell the story of aging baby boomers. The oldest among them are reaching retirement age, and there are millions to follow. We will look at the impact – costs, strains and positive influences – that this so-called silver tsunami will have on the communities in which they live.

FrameWorks: Framing COVID-19
Topic #3: Widening the circle of “we”
To come through this crisis, we need policies and practices that respond to varying—and inequitable—health, social, or economic situations. To do this, it’s important that we carefully frame the needs of marginalized and high-risk social groups. Click the link above to read more

APA (American Pyschological Association) RESOLUTION on Ageism
Negative stereotypes of aging (ageism) continue to raise serious
problems that lead to discrimination and unfair treatment of
older adults. Click the link above to read more

APA (American Pyschological Association) Tips to help address ageism during the pandemic
Ageism, stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups based on their age, can contribute to inaccurate and misleading information or influence COVID-19-related health care discussions and decisions of older people. Click the link above to read more

APA STYLE: AGE
When you are writing, you need to follow general principles to ensure that your language is free of bias. Here we provide guidelines for talking about age with inclusivity and respect. Click link above to read more

Gaining Momentum: A Communications Toolkit (2017). This collection of research and resources equips advocates in the aging services sector to change perceptions about what it means for America to get older.

Frame Brief: Framing Strategies to Advance Aging and Address Ageism as Policy Issues (2017)This summary of major findings and recommendations offers a brief, lively guide to an evidence-based approach to reframing aging.

The Pernicious Problem of Ageism (2015) A special issue of Generations, the journal of the American Society on Aging, explores the importance of framing in addressing the pressing issue of ageism in America and features articles from FrameWorks researchers.

Webinar: Ageism is Bad for Your Health
Hosted by the Tri-State Collaborative on Aging
This webinar focuses on ageism, the negative impacts on our health and how we can change the conversation moving forward. During the recent COVID-19 response we have seen a marked increase in ageist attitudes–from naming conronavirus the “Boomer Buster” to cartoons asking people to choose grandma or the economy. Watch this webinar to learn more about changing the conversation on aging in our current climate and how we move forward together with effective messaging. This webinar includes presentations by re-framing experts from New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and from the national initiative. 

Webinar: FrameWorks
Hosted by the Tri-State Collaborative on Aging

This webinar explored key findings from a series of FrameWorks studies that were conducted in partnership with a collaboration of leading aging organizations and funders. The studies were designed to explore how the public views older adults in this country and how media and expert discourse help shape these understandings. The research compares what experts say about older adults to what the public perceives to be true. This process has found profound differences, with deep implications for the way we need to communicate about aging services and policies. This webinar  discusses key findings from this research and concluded with a discussion of implications and next steps.

Webinar: FrameWorks 2.0
Hosted by the Tri-State Collaborative on Aging
This webinar, led by the FrameWorks Institute, will offer guidance on how to talk about aging, demographic change, and elder abuse in ways that foster greater public understanding of these issues and promote positive social change. It is the “part 2” of the original Frameworks webinar (see above).