Tracey Gendron – Why America Thinks Your Age Is a Big Deal


In America, age is a big deal. We are a youth-obsessed culture that is always looking for the next best thing. This can be seen in the way we talk about aging.

We often use words like “elderly” or “senior citizen” to describe older adults, as if they are a different species.

This othering creates a sense of distance between us and them, which can lead to negative attitudes and stereotypes.  Ageism is a form of discrimination that is based on age.

 It can affect anyone, regardless of their actual age.

One of the most common examples is the way we treat older adults. We often assume that they are not as capable as younger people, and this can lead to them being overlooked or ignored.

Ageism can also affect caregiving, as older adults may be less likely to receive care if they are perceived as being a burden.

Generational labels are another example of ageism. They are often used to divide people into groups based on their age, which can create feelings of competition or hostility between different generations.

The term “successful aging” is also problematic, as it suggests that there is a right and wrong way to age.

Elderhood is a better way to talk about older age than retirement, as it acknowledges the many contributions that older adults make to society.

It also recognizes that aging is a natural process that should be celebrated, not feared.

Today my guest is Dr. Tracey Gendron. Dr. Tracey Gendron is a highly respected gerontologist and author who is dedicated to understanding and raising awareness of ageism.

She has written the book “Ageism Unmasked: Exploring Age Bias and How to End it.”

Her research focuses on the language and expression of ageism, as well as on elderhood as a stage of development.

Dr. Gendron’s personal and professional goal is to understand and disrupt the deeply embedded, normalized, and invisible ageism that exists within us all.

Learn more about Tracey:
Purchase her book “Ageism Unmasked”:


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Episode Transcript


Hanh Brown: Hi, I’m Hanh Brown, the host of the Boomer Living Broadcast. On the show, we discuss in-depth topics that are relevant to baby boomers. We identify challenges and opportunities so that we can better serve this generation. Today’s topic is why America thinks your age is a big deal. Well, we are a youth-obsessed culture that is always looking for the next best thing.

Hanh Brown: This can be seen in the way that we talk about aging. We often use words like elderly or senior citizen to describe older adults as if they are a different species. This othering creates a sense of distance between us and them, which can lead to negative attitudes and stereotypes. Ageism is a form of discrimination that is based on age.

Hanh Brown: It can affect anyone, regardless of actual age. One of the most common examples is the way that we treat older adults. We often assume they are not as capable as younger people, and this can lead to them being overlooked and ignored. Ageism can also affect caregiving as older adults may be less likely to receive care if they are perceived as being a burden.

Hanh Brown: Generational labels are another example of ageism. They are often used to divide people into groups based on their age, which can create feelings of competition or hostility between different generations. And the term “successful aging” is also problematic as it suggests that there is a right and wrong way to age.

Hanh Brown: Elderhood is a better way to talk about older age than retirement, as it acknowledges the many contributions that older adults make to society. It also recognizes that aging is a natural process that should be celebrated, not feared. So today my guest is Tracy Gendron. So, Dr. Tracy Gendron is a highly respected gerontologist and author.

Hanh Brown: Who is dedicated to understanding and raising awareness of ageism? She has written the book “Ageism Unmasked: Exploring Age Bias and How to End It.” Her research focuses on the language and expression of ageism, as well as elderhood as a stage of development. Dr. Gendron’s personal and professional goal is to understand and disrupt the deeply embedded, normalized.

Hanh Brown: And invisible ageism that exists within all of us. So Dr. Tracy, welcome to the show.

Tracey Gendron: Thank you so much for having me. Great to be here, Han.

Hanh Brown: Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much. So how are you and where are you calling from today?

Tracey Gendron: I am calling from outside of Richmond, Virginia, in a little town called Midlothian.

Tracey Gendron: And it is just a beautiful fall day here.

Hanh Brown: Yeah. Nice. We were there over the summer, Virginia. Really? Yeah. Yeah. We, we, we passed by. I love it. Kids had a nice time, but Yeah. But over here we had some snow in Michigan already. Wow. Yeah. You’re getting a jumpstart. Yeah. So what would you like the listeners to know about you professionally and personally?

Tracey Gendron: So, well, I think you did a great introduction, so thank you for

 that. Um, I am a gerontologist, so that means that I have a master’s degree in gerontology, which I received about 25 years ago or so. So I have been kind of in this space of thinking about aging from a holistic perspective, a biopsychosocial spiritual perspective.

Tracey Gendron: For much of my life at this point, I am chair of the Department of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University and Director of the Virginia Center on Aging and Ageism is something that I came to about a decade ago or so when I really started to see for the first time how deeply embedded ageism was, not only in the culture but also within me.

Tracey Gendron: So I think much of my path has been this dual reflection of wanting to understand it but also really wanting to personally examine it and challenge it within myself. And I think that has, uh, you know, been the driver for a lot of my work.

Hanh Brown: So, I echo that. I think too much of it is innate and we don’t even realize it.

Hanh Brown: So I think the more that we talk about it, honestly with ourselves, you know, and admit that we can be ageist towards our loved ones and towards ourselves and, uh, be a part of that. Breaking the paradigm. Yes. So, exactly. Thank you so much for what you do. Thank you. And um, you know, we will all likely become victims of ageism eventually.

Hanh Brown: Why do you think that? Don’t more people care about it?

Tracey Gendron: I’m not sure it’s that people don’t care about it. I think people don’t know about it. I think there’s a real lack of awareness and what I’m learning as I, you know, speak to more and more people about this topic, um, is that ageism is, it’s omnidirectional.

Tracey Gendron: So it means it is directed towards older people, but it’s also very much directed towards younger people. And it’s a vicious cycle that we have created. And I think once people understand what ageism is, what it looks like, that it’s even a thing, and you explain to them why it matters, then people do care.

Tracey Gendron: But until people have the knowledge of what it really looks like and the consequences, I don’t think that they recognize that it’s something that they need to pay attention to or that has any kind of negative influence on them. So it’s usually an aha moment for people when I start to explain the consequences.

Tracey Gendron: Of ageism and, and then that kind of opens the door to maybe I should care about this.

Hanh Brown: Mm-hmm. Very true. And how do you think, I guess, ageism and narcissism are related?

Tracey Gendron: You know, I’ve never been asked that question before and I love that question. So when I think about narcissism, you know, to me that’s kind of an unhealthy obsession with self, and really prioritizing certain aspects of ourselves, like how we look compared to other people, how much money we have compared to other people. So I think ageism and narcissism probably could go hand in hand when

 we’re thinking about the fact that we live in a youth-obsessed culture and therefore, you know, we become seen as less beautiful, as less valuable, as less successful as we age.

Tracey Gendron: Um, and I can definitely see that as a challenge, especially for people that are higher in narcissism. Um, but what an interesting relationship to be able to look at. So I, again, I love that question because it’s one I’ve never thought of until you asked it. Mm-hmm.

Hanh Brown: Yeah. There are some similarities, you know? Yeah.

Hanh Brown: And I think it’s important to bring it to light because it is related. Yes. It’s not one or the other. They’re intertwined. Absolutely. So it’s certainly something that we can improve in ourselves and break away from it. And I think we’re all victims of it, let’s face it. Right? Yes, very much.

Tracey Gendron: So.

Hanh Brown: Yeah. So, you know, we reach a certain age, we’re suddenly seen as less capable, less valuable, so, Then we think about, gee, why is there so much innate ageism?

Hanh Brown: I don’t know where it starts, but I know it’s there. Maybe it’s when people, let’s say, hit retirement age, they’re no longer seen as productive members of society. Or maybe it’s even sooner than that when we start to experience age-related changes like wrinkles and gray hair and so forth. So whatever the cause of ageism, of what it is, certainly it’s a real problem.

Hanh Brown: As you have mentioned, it’s harmful to individuals and society on an individual level. I think it can lead to feelings of depression. Mm-hmm. Worthlessness. Mm-hmm. Decrease opportunities in work and social life, and at least, I think for society, ageism leads to a waste of human potential and resources.

Hanh Brown: So, talking about innate ageism, how do we work among ourselves and others to do a better job than that?

Tracey Gendron: Absolutely. So you really very well describe the complexities of ageism because you’re right, it is externally driven, meaning it’s how we see other people based on their age. And it’s also internally driven, meaning it’s how we see ourselves as an aging person and how we view the process of growing older.

Tracey Gendron: And there are different consequences that go with both of those. When it comes to the innate, there are a couple of ways I can talk about that. The first is that we live in such an ageist society, and there have been a lot of different events and historical experiences that have happened that have gotten us to this period of time.

Tracey Gendron: Um, it’s all in the book. That’s actually what my book really talks about. But essentially the way that we have built society really makes older people others. Retirement plays a role in that. Again, you said it well. We start to see people as not contributors, as not productive. Even the term retirement itself really describes a withdrawal from society.

Tracey Gendron: Retirement tells me you used to work. It is a role and a position that describes something you used to do. It does not talk about what you are actively doing. It is not a strength-based term. So that coupled with kind of these cultural messages that we have, an anti-aging industry, as you said, an obsession with youth, is that ageism becomes kind of invisible.

Tracey Gendron: So then it becomes internally directed where we believe that there’s a lot of shame associated with growing older or looking older or acting older. And so you’re right, when we internalize those messages, what that ends up leading to is actually the very things that we fear. It can lead to memory loss, it can lead to a decline in our cognition.

Tracey Gendron: It can lead to social isolation, it can lead to depression. Um, and these are all things that are not normal and expected parts of aging, but that we can certainly manifest when we’re carrying around a lifetime of stress and fear related to aging. So the innateness of it in society becomes invisibly internalized, and that then internalization creates the manifestation of the things that we fear the most. So it’s a fascinating kind of cycle. So, how do you break it? The first thing you do is recognize that aging is not a process of decline alone. Aging is a process of decline, growth, maintenance, and adaptation. And once we start to see that aging is not just about our bodies, that’s a part of it.

Tracey Gendron: Aging is about our psyche, it’s about our relationship with spirituality. It’s about our social position in the world. It’s about our psyche and our growth. Once you start to see that, you can start to reframe the way you think about aging, and that’s a very healthy place to start.

Hanh Brown: Mm-hmm. It’s our entirety, right?

Hanh Brown: Yes. It’s all, it’s the wholeness of…

Tracey Gendron: who we are. It’s the wholeness. Exactly. It’s about all of it, but we’re trained to think aging is decline. We see slopes like this, that aging is a downward trajectory, but it’s not. We grow our entire lives. We keep changing our entire lives. In fact, older people are often much happier because they’ve come into themselves. They’re more comfortable in their own skin despite having health challenges.

Tracey Gendron: So these are the things that we need to talk about. And if everybody could take away one thing, that would be the thing I’d want them to take away is that aging is beautifully complicated. So… And that we can embrace that. Absolutely.

Hanh Brown: And it’s not one dimensional.

Tracey Gendron: Correct. That’s exactly right.

Hanh Brown: Mm-hmm. Well, I kind of know where the next question is going.

Hanh Brown: However, I still wanna hear your take. People are afraid of aging. Okay. For obvious reasons, but let’s talk about that. Let’s bring all those reasons and let’s debunk those, those reasons. Can you comment on that?

Tracey Gendron: Yeah. Um, so, so first, I think that a lot of what you’ve said so far when it comes to the fear of losses and the fear of decline is that we have to acknowledge that ableism is a part yet separate phenomenon from ageism.

Tracey Gendron: So ableism is when we discriminate against people based on level of ability or inability, and I think a lot of us carry around fears of losing ability. And that’s internalized ableism, not internalized ageism. So I just think it’s important to kind of talk about both of these things because they exist in the same space and in part because, as I said before, aging does mean our bodies will change and our bodies will decline in some ways because we’re mortal.

Tracey Gendron: So… There’s a different kind of fear that is associated with that, that’s rooted in ableism, and ageism kind of exacerbates it. So I think that’s a point that’s really important for people to think about is that there are different kinds of layers and levels of those fears and anxieties. Mm-hmm.

Hanh Brown: Very true.

Hanh Brown: So who do you think is most affected by ageism?

Tracey Gendron: I think all people are affected by ageism. I think it just presents differently for different people. So, you know, we’ll talk about gendered ageism and how ageism impacts women versus

 men. I think that their messages about success for men and women are very different, but the shame directed at them can be somewhat similar.

Tracey Gendron: Um, so for women, I think they often feel both invisible and hyper-visible at the same time. Clearly there are economic consequences for women where over a lifetime, because of wage differences, they make less, they can be more income insecure. Um, you know, they can be at risk for all different kinds of issues in later life.

Tracey Gendron: Men are also shamed sometimes in different ways, um, about being a provider or a caregiver. Um, the products that are really directed towards men are really about shaming, about virility. Um, and that’s part of a man’s identity. So gendered ageism, you know, is there for people of all genders, for people that fall anywhere on the gender identity spectrum, but… They’re different.

Tracey Gendron: And then when you add on other aspects of identity, like race and ethnicity and sexual orientation, um, those compound because aging is individual for each person. Each person is going to experience it differently, but it’s also dependent on all the forms of our identity. So, uh, each, you know, again, each person, depending on who they are, is gonna have their own unique risk factors and protective factors.

Tracey Gendron: Very true.

Hanh Brown: So let’s talk about respect in older adults. What is your take on that, especially in today’s society?

Tracey Gendron: I think there’s generally a lack of, you know, I think that, um, where we have gone as a society is seeing a lot of older people as out of touch or irrelevant or incompetent. This is especially true given that we live in a very technological society and that a lot of older people didn’t grow up using the technology that we have today.

Tracey Gendron: So I think in that way, um, there’s definitely a lack of respect. But if you go to some of the ancient texts, some, um, like Judeo-Christian Bible and some cultures, there’s definitely a respect built in for older people. Um, and wisdom was venerated and older people were seen as leaders in their…

Tracey Gendron: Churches or their temples or whatever their institution was. And I do think there’s pockets of that as well. I think there’s a lot of family members that have a lot of reverence for the elders in their families. So I think there’s a contradiction that’s there, is that societally we’ve pushed people away as others, um, but there are still pockets where people are talking about the value of older people.

Tracey Gendron: And I think that needs to start to bleed through into more societal level conversations.

Hanh Brown: Absolutely. And I think what adds to ageism is that, you know, as we get older, some may become set in their ways and resistant to change. This can make people seem inflexible or out of touch with a younger generation. That notion certainly adds to ageism.

Hanh Brown: Right?

Tracey Gendron: Yeah. I do think a lot of younger people are starting to notice too. I do, and I

 do these talks. I hear a lot of younger people say they feel as if they have been discriminated against in all kinds of environments because they’re perceived as too young to understand something or not have enough experience or, so I think they are starting to feel it as well.

Tracey Gendron: Um, which is a good thing, not that there’s ageism everywhere, but that people are starting to get a clue as to what it looks like and how we can challenge it. I think that’s really important. And as you said, it can be very insidious and very invisible, um, masked as a compliment. That happens all the time.

Tracey Gendron: You know, you look great for your age, you haven’t aged a bit. Um, where people say, oh, thank you. You look so young. You can’t possibly be however old you are. They’re masked as compliments. Um, so it can be very hard to identify and then hard to challenge, but, um, but yeah, but as we have these conversations with people, we are doing the work of raising awareness, you know, and letting people know, Hey, wait, no, I need you to think about this.

Tracey Gendron: I need you to, you know, really recognize when you’re experiencing ageism and when you’re perpetuating ageism, because we all do it.

Hanh Brown: Right? Very true. All right, so let’s talk about successful aging. I don’t even like that word, but let’s talk about that. It’s terrible. What’s your take? Why is it problematic?

Tracey Gendron: It’s problematic, uh, for a couple of different reasons. So the way that we have defined successful aging is that you’re maintaining your independence, you are maintaining your physical abilities, your cognitive abilities, and you’re really engaged. And that’s great, and there are some people that are going to fit that to a T.

Tracey Gendron: But the problem is, because aging does have some level of decline, eventually we will all fail if you define successful aging as the ability to maintain. We’re not going to be able to maintain. But that doesn’t mean we’re not successful. So this really, to me, speaks to this intersection of ageism and ableism.

Tracey Gendron: We can have physical limitations, we can have cognitive limitations, and we can still be successful. We get to define what success means to us, and I think we get to define that at all ages and stages. So what is successful to you now may not be what you define as success 10 years from now or 20 years from now because it certainly isn’t what you defined for yourself when you were 10.

Tracey Gendron: What was successful then doesn’t match what is successful now. So I think we need to stop thinking about how other people define success for us and really think about what it means for ourselves, and that can be freeing. I mean, I think that can be very liberating and empowering.

Hanh Brown: So true.

Hanh Brown: Instead of living under the succumb with the pressure, let’s say, to stay fit or active, which I’m in favor of, but it’s the pressure that is the issue. The pressure to stay fit and active, have a successful career, to be financially stable, to be emotionally happy and fulfilled, and to maintain social relationships, all of which are very good.

Hanh Brown: Yeah. But it’s overwhelming and exhausting just to try to keep up with all of that. Exactly. So I think it’s especially hard for older adults because they’re already dealing with age-related changes and losses. Yes, right. And then compounding that are all the pressures of the right way to age. So it’s insensitive.

Tracey Gendron: It is, and it’s narrow. It’s just a very narrow definition. And you’re right. I think that health promotion is a good thing. Taking care of ourselves, eating well, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, you know, these are all really good things for our health, and they do extend longevity. But being shamed into it…

Tracey Gendron: Does not help. And having one narrow definition doesn’t help. So, for example, some people may say, if I get to retirement, that’s success. I have succeeded because I can afford to retire. Somebody else might say, I don’t ever want to retire. I love working. I love the purpose that it gives me. Somebody else might say, I can’t afford to retire.

Tracey Gendron: You can’t prioritize one definition of success over the others when they have three very different situations and three very different needs. So, yeah, you said it very well.

Hanh Brown: You know, and I like these conversations because it makes people start thinking. It’s not a simple thing. We’re victims, and we’re also perpetrators as well.

Hanh Brown: Yeah. So I think it’s important that we talk about the complexity of aging and all the different issues that come with it, like we are right now, and we need to normalize the aging process and have a more realistic expectation about what it means to each and every

 one of us, not what it means to everybody.

Hanh Brown: Right. It’s very personal.

Tracey Gendron: Exactly. And if you want to go really deep, if you want to take it a step deeper, I think we also need to talk about why we fear dependency, why we see being dependent as a failure. When the truth is, we are always dependent on other people. We are not independent creatures. We are interdependent creatures.

Tracey Gendron: From the moment we’re born, we rely on other people. But we see dependency as a failure. And then underneath that is also fear of death. So there’s just a lot to it. It’s a very rich and deep topic, and not one that you can just think about once and say, okay, I got it. This takes a lot of unpacking to do because of the levels that are involved in it.

Hanh Brown: Emotionally, mentally, physically, in all regards. And it’s intertwined. It’s a complex matter. Yes, you know? Yes, exactly. So how does ageism affect caregiving? That’s a big issue.

Tracey Gendron: It is. And I think that, you know, that does speak to some of the burden language that I was talking about and the fear of dependency.

Tracey Gendron: So I like to give this example because in the book, I found this fascinating when I was doing the research. We started to separate caregiving and parenting, like in the 19th century, around the time of the Industrial Revolution. We started to think of paid caregivers and the profession of nursing as kind of stepping in to care for our older parents and loved ones.

Tracey Gendron: And so this term caregiving kind of started to come around. It didn’t get formalized till later, and it became more associated with a burden. Right. So older people became a burden. We outsourced it. We put them into segregated housing, sometimes institutional living, and we paid caregivers. Whereas we started to talk about parenting as kind of this natural transition that we do when we have children that is expected.

Tracey Gendron: We expect that we’re going to parent. That is our responsibility. But we don’t talk about parenting only as a burden. We talk about it in terms of being challenging with great rewards at the same time. So we can flip that for caregiving for older people as well. It is challenging. It can also be extraordinarily rewarding.

Tracey Gendron: So I think that we have pathologized what it means to give care to other people. We have made it into something that older people receive rather than a relationship that they develop with people. Even when you’re receiving care, you are giving back to people. So instead of a relational thing, that again others older people and it marginalizes the people that provide care for older people.

Tracey Gendron: And we even see that in wage discrepancies. The people that work to care for older people are generally underpaid and undervalued. So that’s systemic discrimination, ageism, when it’s looking at the whole system.

Hanh Brown: You know, I, I, gosh, I couldn’t have said that better myself. But you know, with regards to caregiving,

 I truly believe every single one of us, if we’re not already a caregiver or a caregiver and receiving it, you will.

Hanh Brown: Yep. You will. I’m confident of that.

Tracey Gendron: Absolutely. You will give or you will receive, or both, and at multiple points in your life. Not just at one point. Yeah, exactly. So to normalize that and to talk about maximizing that, again, not to acknowledge it can be very challenging. Parenting can be very challenging, but to say there are also great rewards that come with it and to develop the support structures to help people, to help give them the external support that they need to do it.

Tracey Gendron: That would be a much more productive way to go and a much more productive conversation to have.

Hanh Brown: Right. There’s a give and take. There’s a relational aspect. There are rewards, and I think we have to uncover that and speak to that more than the burden. Exactly. No easy task. Certainly no easy task.

Tracey Gendron: Absolutely.

Hanh Brown: I’m living through it in multiple ways in my life, but you have to really reset your thinking to honor and celebrate as opposed to feeling it’s a burden. Exactly. Yes. Okay. So let’s talk about ending ageism in the caregiving industry. We talked about it a little bit, but what ways can we do as an industry to promote caregivers?  What’s your take? 

Tracey Gendron: I think that, you know, we’re starting to have some of these conversations, and I think there are kind of two parallel conversations here. One is about more family caregivers and providing them with the supports and services that they need. So I think there are community-based strategies that we’re going to need, that give people options for respite, that can help provide them with some of the gaps in resources that they may have, that provide them with support from nonprofit institutions that can come in and help with the management of certain tasks and issues. And then also, you know, respecting the caregiving process with things like paid leave from work, not just for childcare, but for elder care, for any care. So I think there’s supporting the family caregivers, but then I think there’s a separate issue in supporting professional caregivers. And I think we need to do some serious advocacy and policy work. And since Covid, we have seen much more effort put into getting direct care staff and professional caregivers higher wages. We’re seeing more emphasis on creating supportive environments for them so that they feel valued, on having them have the benefits of a full-time job so they don’t have to hop around from job to job. And I think we’re going to need a lot more investment in that as well. If you go into any kind of age-segregated community, you should look at how happy the staff are because that directly translates into the quality of care that people are getting. We have to invest in the caregivers. We have to invest in the staff and their health and their well-being and their happiness. And we still have a ways to go to be able to do that. But I am happy that conversations have started, and I believe that’s the first step to getting there.

Hanh Brown: I agree.

Hanh Brown: I think Covid has been a big revealer. Yeah. If people didn’t know already that some of these problems existed, well, they certainly do after Covid. And I hate to even say it, but there’s some good that came out of it, and this is one of them, you know?

Tracey Gendron: Absolutely. It’s been a great revealer for all.

Hanh Brown: Absolutely. So let’s talk about generational labels.

Hanh Brown: How is that 

Tracey Gendron: ages? Ooh, I love this question. So, generational labels, um, are very misleading, and to me, again, when we’re talking about a lazy way to categorize somebody using a generational label, to me as a very lazy shortcut. So general Lional labels are largely arbitrary. When you think about it, other than the baby boomers who were called the baby boomers, because the birth rate spiked in the years 1946 to 64 other ones, it’s kind of like flexible as to when a Gen Xer is, when a Gen Z or is when a millennial is, there’s even kind of different definitions of it, but basically you’re taking this arbitrary 20 year period, 15 to 20 year period.

Tracey Gendron: And you’re saying, well, everybody born within that 20 year period must have the same likes, dislikes, needs, preferences, abilities, because they are a baby boomer, because they were born within that same period. That makes no sense. When we talk about individuality and we talk about how people experience events and historical events differently, talk about people’s levels of identity that they carry with them.

Tracey Gendron: There is no way that people in a 20 year span have the same lifes, likes, dislikes, preferences. It just doesn’t make sense. So when we, you know, use things like Boomer and what they have turned into is a catchall like, okay boomer, um, to dismiss someone, to minimize someone, tsunami, the, the tsunami, the, when we talk about millennial, whether it’s a millennial or not, we’re categorizing people as lazy, as entitled.

Tracey Gendron: You again are, are perpetuating bias. You are perpetuating this view of somebody based on a single arbitrary definition, and it, it takes you farther and farther away from seeing the unique person in front of you. So I think generations are helpful in talking about maybe some historical context and talking about maybe even some demographic trends, but not the way that we currently talk about it.

Tracey Gendron: Yes, I have strong feelings about this. 

Hanh Brown: Mm-hmm. No, I do too. I do too. I mean there’s a time and place for it, just like you said in history. Right. And breaking down to demographics, cuz certainly there’s many cohorts, you can’t label all of that under one. Correct. And I think people are obsessed with labeling generations because it makes complex issues feel manageable.

Hanh Brown: Correct. You know, when you put something into a neat little box, it’s easier to understand and deal with. And maybe it also, it’s a way of belonging when you can identify with a group of people you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself. Yes. But there’s a lot of downside. Okay. Yes. A lot of labels limiting.

Hanh Brown: Yes. That’s a like you gotta 

Tracey Gendron: conform. Yes. Yeah. I love the and and conforming. I think those are great ways to describe it. Um, cuz yes, it does limit. And when you think about it, How many times have you experienced something with someone else? So let’s say you and your best friend both experienced covid together, I bet you experienced it very differently from your best friend.

Tracey Gendron: I bet the outcomes were very different. Historical influences don’t have a blanket effect, and we need to take that into account that each person is gonna have their own interpretation. So, Of what happened in their own experience. So limiting is the right word for that. 

Hanh Brown: Yeah, it is. Yeah. Generational labels have influenced the way we view older adults.

Hanh Brown: Let’s talk about that. Yeah. 

Tracey Gendron: So, I was just reading something today, an article that was talking about the silent generation and how people in the silent generation don’t tend to wanna make waves and that baby boomers, you know, put, put their, you know, politics up front and that they really do. And I can think of examples off the top of my head of people that don’t fit into those categories well.

Tracey Gendron: Um, so again, I, I just think that these labels derail us. From really looking at the unique needs of each person. Um, and that’s why I think those, those labels are very dangerous. Mm-hmm. 

Hanh Brown: That’s true. What about Elderhood? Is that a better way to talk about older age than retirement? 

Tracey Gendron: I certainly think so. So I, I think that, as I said before, retirement is very limiting as well.

Tracey Gendron: Retirement is a withdrawal, a withdrawal based term that basically tells me that you used to work. Retirement actually is a social institution. Retirement is not a stage of life. So we talk about stages of life, we talk about infancy. We talk about childhood, we talk about adolescence, we talk about adulthood, and then we continue to talk about adulthood.

Tracey Gendron: It just goes on and on and on. And now that we’re living into our nineties and hundreds, that means that we could be in adulthood for what, 70, 80 years of our life, depending on when one becomes an adult, cuz that’s also kind of arbitrary. I think that elderhood is a term that has purpose, power, and meaning, and it’s a strength based term that says development in later life is different than development earlier in life.

Tracey Gendron: Not that an older person is not an adult, of course they are, but maybe the markers and the milestones and the opportunities are different. For older people in Elderhood than they are for people earlier in adulthood. And if we could think of that natural shift, like maybe downshifting is a good thing, maybe not.

Tracey Gendron: Being so busy and hurried like we are in adulthood, gives us more space to work on ourselves, to build a legacy, to bring peace to the world. To generate wisdom. Um, you know, wouldn’t that be a refreshing way of looking at milestones in elderhood and contributions for elderhood? The world needs older people.

Tracey Gendron: The world needs them for so many reasons. And I think if we started to think about Elderhood as a developmental stage, we’d stop thinking about it as just decline and start to think about it in that much more complex way that we were talking about. 

Hanh Brown: Wow. That’s so true. Boy, what, what a huge paradigm shift that we all need to participate in.

Hanh Brown: You know, it starts conversations like this, but we got a long ways to go. 

Tracey Gendron: We do. We do, but each conversation helps. Yeah. 

Hanh Brown: So, in closing, do you have anything else that you would like to add? 

Tracey Gendron: There’s probably a million things that I would like to add, but I’m, I’m grateful to have the conversation with you.

Tracey Gendron: I’m grateful for you inviting me on. Um, if I could, you know, leave people with, with one thing, it would be find your reason why this matters. As you said in the very beginning, why don’t people care? So, And I said, because I don’t think people realize that it has the consequences that it does. So what I would love for everyone to do is first recognize that ageism is about you.

Tracey Gendron: This is about people of all ages and all stages. Number two, recognize that there’s a lot of reasons why it matters, including to your health, your happiness, your longevity, the health and happiness, longevity of your loved ones, because you’re motivated by justice and you wanna create a society that is equitable based on age, even motivation, because it harms businesses.

Tracey Gendron: It harms the economy, it harms industries. So there’s really no wrong source of motivation, but find your why. Really find your why, and then don’t beat yourself up for being ageist, both internally or externally. You have to see it first before you can do anything about it and be on your journey. Be open to learning about it, and to be thinking about it and realize that this is gonna, you know, be a process that unfolds over time.

Tracey Gendron: So that’s what I would everyone with. 

Hanh Brown: Wow. Thank you. That is something that I’m reminding myself, you know? You think you know, but when you start having these conversations, you realize, gee, some of your own behavior need to change as well. Exactly. So in closing, there’s no easy way to talk about growing old.

Hanh Brown: It’s a complex issue with many different facets, and everyone has their own unique experience with it. For some growing old is the time of wisdom and reflection. They never felt more confident. Or sure of themselves. They’re comfortable in their skin and they know who they are. They may peace with their past and they’re living in the present.

Hanh Brown: They’re grateful and for every day, for everyone, and every day that they have, but for others, going old is a time of insecurity and uncertainty. They know or they don’t know who they’re through day, day, any purpose or direction. They’re afraid of future of the future and they mourn the loss of their youth or perhaps a loved one, a spouse.

Hanh Brown: So it’s a confusing and often painful time, but it’s also 

Tracey Gendron: a time of growth 

Hanh Brown: and discovery. So no matter how you feel about growing old, it’s an inevitable part of life. Life and it’s something that we all have to go through together. So embrace a journey and. Be a part of the paradigm to debunk the ageism and thank you so much for

Hanh Brown: listening to another episode of the Boomer Living Broadcast. I know you have a lot of options when it comes to podcasts, and I’m grateful that you’ve chosen this one. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Write a review on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. It helps others discover the show.

Hanh Brown: You can also contact us at 7346350684 to leave a review and request content for the show. We love hearing from our listeners. Check out our TikTok, Instagram and YouTube channel Aging Media Show and subscribe to weekly 

Hanh Brown: tips on how to best serve the senior population. We wanna help them have a great experience as they age. Thanks for tuning in Until next time.

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