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Books to Give or Keep in 2017

Books to Give or Keep in 2017
Friends all know I’m an avid reader, and it’s that time of year when they ask me to recommend books for holiday gift lists. I primarily seek out new fiction, but I enjoy deviating for an interesting memoir. Each of my picks connects to aging, from midlife on up.  Read more...


 

Dementia in Films: Getting It Wrong

Dementia in Films: Getting It Wrong
Fiona, a woman in her 70s living with Alzheimer’s disease, announces to her husband, Grant, “We are at that stage.” She means the point at which she belongs in a nursing home. Her husband, like almost all family caregivers, finds it hard to take that step. But Fiona says, “You don’t have to make that decision alone, Grant, I’ve already made up my mind.” That’s a shocking statement, in part because people with dementia find making decisions difficult.  Read more...


 

If Aging Is So Awful, How Come No One Wants to Be Younger?

If Aging Is So Awful, How Come No One Wants to Be Younger?
You hear people say “I wish I were young again” all the time. Yet I’ve never met anyone who would actually choose to move their game piece back on the board unless they could transport their present-day consciousness along with it. No one actually wants to be younger, despite a lifetime of being bombarded by messages that old = awful and “it’s all going to suck.”  Read more...


 

Ageist Trolls on Social Media and in the New Yorker Too

Ageist Trolls on Social Media and in the <em>New Yorker</em> Too
The Internet is notorious for commenters who feel grossly entitled to dismiss vulnerable others. This past summer, Harvard University hit hard against racist and sexist speech on Facebook, rescinding admissions to some potential first-year students.  Read more...


 

What Does ‘Old’ Look Like to Millennials—and to AARP?

What Does ‘Old’ Look Like to Millennials—and to AARP?
AARP’s new #DisruptAging site has some commendable goals: to “hold a mirror up to the ageist beliefs around us,” and “change the stories we tell ourselves about aging.” In other words, as they put it, to “disrupt aging”—which also just happens to be the title of AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins’ new book. The site has featured me as an “age disruptor,” which I appreciate. It’s produced a few videos, the most recent of which has gotten a lot of traction.  Read more...


 

19, Going on 90

19, Going on 90
Here’s a note that came to me recently from a reader of my Q&A blog, Yo, Is This Ageist? She wrote that:

The other day I was eating lunch with my best friend, when out of the blue she asks me if she was getting neck wrinkles. Since we are both 19, I laughed at her question and told her no. However, she was not convinced and stated that she was going to ask her parents for anti-aging serum in her stocking for Christmas.  Read more...


 

Now Hear This

Now Hear This
I love to feel connected and informed—both, keys to successful aging. I no longer get a newspaper and don’t watch much television. I live between New York City and Philadelphia, where there’s no shortage of media outlets, but I get virtually all of my news from the radio. I know—old school. The radio is on in my kitchen, home office and car, not for music but to stay on top of what’s happening in the world and for infotainment. I’m sort of an NPR junkie. The hosts’ voices are as familiar to me as my family’s.  Read more...


 

Whose Vision Problem Is It?

Whose Vision Problem Is It?
I recently saw a feature in a magazine about an item so intriguing that I was compelled to investigate the retailer's website. I left my comfy reading chair to go to the computer with the intention of making a purchase. When I got to the website, I found that I could barely make out the product description because of the font and color they used. The print was small and the colors—gray on gray—did not provide contrast for me to read what I wanted to learn. So frustrating!  Read more...


 

Let’s Put Films to the Applewhite Test

Let’s Put Films to the Applewhite Test
Invented by the sharp American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, a movie passes the Bechdel test if at least two women talk to each other about something other than a man. Low bar, right? Yet surprisingly few movies pass it. I propose the Applewhite test for ageism: a movie passes if two older people talk to each other about something besides falling apart.  Read more...


 

A Good Death

A Good Death
While I was trawling the internet one day, I came across this comment on the blog of a jazz musician: “I’ve often joked that every musician’s secret fantasy is to die on the bandstand, at a ripe old age and after a really good solo, and that’s not too far from what I’d actually like to happen a long time from now.”  Read more...


 

Books to Give or Keep in 2016

Books to Give or Keep in 2016
It’s that time of year—when I am asked to recommend books I’ve read to friends who are working on their gift lists. I primarily seek out new fiction, but I enjoy deviating for an interesting memoir. Each of these books connects to aging, from midlife on up.  Read more...


 

Deep Reading

Deep Reading
I’ve spent my life immersed in a warm bath of fiction. I always have one novel going and another waiting. On the rare occasions when I have no new book on hand, I feel slightly panicky.  Read more...


 

Age Takes Center Stage around the Brexit Vote—Not in a Good Way

Age Takes Center Stage around the Brexit Vote—Not in a Good Way
On June 23, 2016, a referendum (a vote in which everyone of voting age can take part) was held to decide whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 52 percent to 48 percent. The unexpected result generated widespread shock—no surprise, given the far-reaching economic and political consequences. What did take me aback was the vitriol directed at older voters, who were blamed in appalling terms.  Read more...


 

Six More Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism

Six More Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism
Are olders really as much of an economic drag on society as the media portrays?

Absolutely not! People 50 and up fuel the significant, fast-growing, and often-overlooked “longevity economy,” which, according to AARP, accounted for 46 percent of US gross domestic product ($7.1 trillion) in 2012. By 2021 the 50-plus age group is projected to drive more than half of US economic activity, as their spending fuels industries that include apparel, health care, education and entertainment. These statistics capture only part of the economic contribution of older Americans, whose unpaid volunteer work in 2013 was valued at $67 billion. And while “entrepreneur” might conjure up an image of a kid in that proverbial garage, twice as many successful American entrepreneurs are over age 50 as in their early 20s. More resources have always flowed from older generations to younger ones than the reverse.  Read more...


 

Six Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism

Six Questions about My New Manifesto Against Ageism
You want to reframe the way American culture sees age and aging. What got you started on this path?

About eight years ago I began interviewing people over 80 for a project called “So when are you going to retire?” and reading about longevity. It didn’t take long to realize that almost everything I thought I knew about aging was wrong. I had no idea that people are happiest at the beginnings and the ends of their lives, for example. That the vast majority of Americans over 65 live independently. That the older people get, the less afraid they are of dying.  Read more...


 

Oh. America. How Obamacare Finished Off Breaking Bad

Oh.<em> America</em>. How Obamacare Finished Off <em>Breaking Bad</em>
Any just society must reduce the despair occasioned by dire medical conditions.

This was one lesson, oddly, that could be drawn from the TV series, Breaking Bad.  Read more...


 

Yo, Am I Ageist?

Yo, Am I Ageist?
Unless you are Peter Pan, one day you'll be old. I don't want to experience discrimination because of a date on my birth certificate. I don’t want people to lump me into a one-size-fits-all assumption based solely on my age. Neither does author Ashton Applewhite, whose new book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism (2016), calls upon the thought leaders of aging to debunk the myths that are filling us with dread and keep us from realizing that all aging can be successful aging.  Read more...


 

I’ll Have What She’s Having—Minus the Internalized Ageism

I’ll Have What She’s Having—Minus the Internalized Ageism
“There is also something profoundly liberating about aging,” Dominique Browning wrote in the New York Times. “Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb, ‘I’m too old for this.’” That’s her new mantra, and the title of her essay, which lingered on the Times’s most emailed list for days. Why? People want stories that ring true to their experience of growing older because they include its welcome aspects.  Read more...


 

Bill Traylor, People’s Artist

I knew very little about Bill Traylor before I walked into the American Folk Art Museum in New York City to see an exhibition of his work. I knew he was a self-taught artist from the South—but that’s all I knew. When I learned from the gallery text that he didn’t start making art until he was in his mid-80s, I was awestruck. Embarking on anything in one’s 80s is rare. Ending up in a museum is radical.  Read more...


 

The “Grandpa in a Nightclub” Problem

The “Grandpa in a Nightclub” Problem
A while ago, Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab ran a piece about the New York Times’ digital branding efforts. It quoted a series of tweets by Max Pfennighaus, who is the executive creative director of brand and marketing at the Times and previously held a similar position at NPR, and whose job is to build the newspaper’s digital brand. He described the core challenge as the “grandpa in a nightclub” problem.  Read more...


 

Books to Give or Keep

Books to Give or Keep
I am reprising my blog from 2014 with new suggestions for books to give or to keep this season. I have a few I've loved and can't wait to share, and I get unparalleled joy from matching a book to a recipient. My personal choice in reading is usually new fiction, but I also have some tried-and-true nonfiction titles for your TBR (to be read) list. Each book connects to midlife and beyond.  Read more...


 

Do I Smell Old?

Do I Smell Old?
When I was a teenager, I worried sometimes about whether I had bad breath or BO (body odor). Advertising campaigns regularly demonized these and other normal, human smells, and that sold a lot of toothpaste, mouthwash and deodorant.  Read more...


 

The Intern, 2015, USA, 121 min.

The Intern, 2015, USA, 121 min.
The Intern is a Nancy Meyers movie, for sure—all sunny skies and characters with straight teeth living in Brooklyn brownstones straight from Architectural Digest. At first glance, it’s another one of Meyers’ puddle-deep salutes to woe among upwardly mobile seniors (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give). But the longer you stay with it, the more Meyers wins you over with her tale of two colleagues falling into a friendship. Of course, it helps to have Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway obliterating the artifice.  Read more...


 

The Pleasures and Perils of Aging

The Pleasures and Perils of Aging
Originally published in the Women’s Review of Books

British feminist Lynne Segal’s Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Aging (2013) is a thoughtful meditation on aging in the West. Shortly after I began reading it, I was walking on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk on my way to see the new Woody Allen movie when a guy on a bike plowed his way among the pedestrians. I shouted out that he shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalk but in the street. “Seriously?” he said, peering down at me; then he examined my face and spat out, “Old hag!” This was a first for me, so it took a moment before I realized my opportunity and shouted back “Ageist!” I doubt that the young man cycling away knew the word, if he even heard me, but for a moment I felt that old activist rush of triumph all the same.  Read more...


 

Beyond Books

Beyond Books
My friend's mom was a voracious reader. Well into her 90s, Bernice, having only recently retired, would read several books each week. When I took her to the library, she would check out a huge stack at every visit, give them a few chapters to prove themselves and continue only if worthy.  Read more...


 

The Joy of Joining

The Joy of Joining
A rumor is making the rounds at my retirement community: we’re going to organize a flash mob. I can hardly wait.

In case you don’t know what a flash mob is, according to Wikipedia it’s a crowd that suddenly gathers, performs “an unusual and pointless act” and then just as suddenly disperses.  Read more...


 

Betrayed by an Author

Betrayed by an Author
Why wouldn't I read a memoir by Joyce Carol Oates? She is a widow, as am I, she lives nearby, and books from her prolific writing career have graced my nightstand frequently over the years. So I bought a copy of A Widow's Story: A Memoir. It seems odd to say that I looked forward to reading the intimate details of her grieving, but I did eagerly await this particular memoir, even if the sharing of our grief was to be one sided.  Read more...


 

Spanning the Generations

Spanning the Generations
I wore bell-bottoms and collected troll dolls; my mother had saddle shoes and jitterbugged. For most of my young life, I couldn't see many areas where we overlapped. Then in my 20s I worked at a restaurant with live music on weekends. The lead vocalist was a crooner whose repertoire was mostly American classics and show tunes. I may have been young relative to the audience, but this was my mother's music, the tunes she listened to on the radio when I was growing up, and as a consequence I knew every word. In fact, coworkers would joke that I could go on the television show, “Name That Tune.”  Read more...


 

These Old Guys

These Old Guys
In 1984 when my wife and I bought our first house, I started watching the PBS home-improvement show This Old House to get some ideas on projects I might be able to do myself.  Read more...


 

Is a Generation of Powerful Women Turning Age into an Advantage? Not Exactly

Is a Generation of Powerful Women Turning Age into an Advantage? Not Exactly
"Could the current cohort of eminent women in their 60s herald an era when aging, for women, ceases to be an enemy, and even becomes a friend?” asks Liza Mundy in the recent issue of the Atlantic.  Read more...


 

Grandma Took the iPad

Grandma Took the iPad
I am a reader who reads all the time, for work and pleasure. I even read about what to read next so I am never caught without something to read! My idea of hell would be to lose that ability.  Read more...


 

Caitlyn Jenner: the Messages in the Image

Caitlyn Jenner: the Messages in the Image
Photo by Annie Leibowitz
What the commentators fail to say about Caitlyn Jenner is that when she came out as a woman publicly in Vanity Fair recently, she did not come out as an older woman.  Read more...


 

Grace and Frankie (Season 1, 2015), 13 episodes, available on Netflix streaming

Grace and Frankie (Season 1, 2015), 13 episodes, available on Netflix streaming
What’s nice about Grace and Frankie—aside from seeing Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda stretching their comedic wings—is how it looks at the golden years with reality and humor. That theme runs throughout the first 13 episodes of the series. Even when the show veers toward the farcical, we root for the title characters—two not-quite friends whose lengthy marriages come to an abrupt end—far more than we recoil at their actions.  Read more...


 

‘Gravity’ and the Impact of Its Female Hero

‘Gravity’ and the Impact of Its Female Hero
Long before it opened in theaters in 2013, I was excited to see Gravity. A female-centric sci-fi film? Yes, please! Haunting and harrowing, the film rests on Sandra Bullock’s shoulders, and she carries it off with raw emotion and nuance. But the best part of Gravity? It offers us a different kind of female hero than what we normally see on-screen.  Read more...


 

Why Would You Even Ask?

Why Would You Even Ask?
“How Old is Too Old To Have Sex?” was the title of a HuffPost Live panel discussion that I took part in last year. As I pointed out during the exchange, the question itself is profoundly ageist. We don’t ask whether people age out of singing or eating ice cream, so why even pose the question when it comes to making love?  Read more...


 

The Age of Adaline, 2015, USA, 112 min.

The Age of Adaline, 2015, USA, 112 min.
Old age is frequently viewed as a flaw, as if those over 45 are incapable of enjoying life because they’re too slow, too jaded, too everything. The Age of Adaline scoffs at that notion. This charming, romantic fable doesn’t venerate youth, even though its title character has been a beautiful young woman for nearly 80 years.  Read more...


 

While We’re Young, 2014, USA, 97 min.

While We’re Young, 2014, USA, 97 min.
Getting old doesn’t just happen. You age every day, until like Cornelia and Josh in writer-director Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, you wonder how the hell you got here. The bittersweet fun of Baumbach’s tart comedy is how Cornelia and Josh keep dodging the hard truth: they don’t have the energy—or the stomach—to stay young. Yet they try longer than they should. We understand why. We’ve been there or soon will be. Reality bites.  Read more...


 

Woman in Gold, 2015, UK, USA, 109 min.

Woman in Gold, 2015, UK, USA, 109 min.
Woman in Gold is an unabashed crowd pleaser. Like 2013’s Philomena, Woman in Gold is based on a true story involving an older woman resolving her past. But we don’t mind the similarity. The performances here are sturdy and winning; the emotions feel true. Woman in Gold works to win our affections.  Read more...


 

Joan Didion and the Crime of Getting Old

Joan Didion and the Crime of Getting Old
One day while doing research online, I came across an article in the Atlantic about author Joan Didion. Since my first love is literature, I immediately clicked the link. Gracing the piece was a black-and-white photograph of Didion in 1977, looking as cool and meticulous as her carefully crafted prose reads. The image evoked memories of that slightly hopeful, slightly anxious time and primed me for reflections on Didion’s life.  Read more...


 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2015, USA, 122 min.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2015, USA, 122 min.
The nicest thing about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)—where a group of senior Brits get recharged in India and in a creaky hotel—was how relatable it felt. Following the characters through their highs and lows was far from a chore.  Read more...


 

Oscar Winner Takes Hollywood to Task for Sexism and Ageism

Oscar Winner Takes Hollywood to Task for Sexism and Ageism
On February 22, 2015, Patricia Arquette used the Oscar stage to advocate for gender wage equality and women’s rights during her acceptance speech for best supporting actress (Boyhood, 2014): "To every woman who gave birth to every citizen and taxpayer of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."  Read more...


 

Still Alice, 2014, USA, 101 min.

Still Alice, 2014, USA, 101 min.
Still Alice tracks a family’s changing dynamics after a life-shattering diagnosis and serves as a showcase for Julianne Moore, whose beautiful, freshly Oscar-winning work allows us to see her family’s struggles as part of the title character’s long, losing battle with herself. The movie proceeds at an uncomfortably languid pace until the end, when we’re shaken.  Read more...


 

Ageist Tropes Taint American Horror Story: Coven

Ageist Tropes Taint <em>American Horror Story: Coven</em>
It’s rare for women over the age of 50 to find starring work in Hollywood, unless one is Meryl Streep or Judi Dench. So I was intrigued to watch American Horror Story: Coven on FX, which features not one but three stellar actresses in their 60s (and one in her 50s): Jessica Lange (Fiona), Kathy Bates (Delphine), Frances Conroy (Myrtle) and Angela Bassett (Marie).  Read more...


 

Age and Beauty on the Big Screen

Age and Beauty on the Big Screen
In a 2012 interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, director and actor Sarah Polley spoke about her film, Take This Waltz. She discussed how we need more female directors and the unique perspective they can bestow on female characters. She also spoke eloquently on the sexist portrayal of women’s bodies on-screen:  Read more...


 

How The Golden Girls Shaped My Feminism

How <i>The Golden Girls</i> Shaped My Feminism
A child of the '80s, I grew up watching TV shows like Murder She Wrote and Love Boat. Living with my grandparents for six years clearly influenced my television viewing habits! My favorite series of my childhood—and still one of my absolute favorites as an adult—was The Golden Girls.  Read more...


 

The Zen of Tony, Spanning Generations

The Zen of Tony, Spanning Generations
I heard a voice from my past when I stumbled upon an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) with the legendary singer Tony Bennett. It triggered many happy memories. I would know that voice anywhere—singing or telling a story—and it always makes me nostalgic. Bennett was a constant in my house growing up, as well as music from others of his generation, like Sinatra, Goulet and Como, to name but a few. My parents had a respectable collection of LPs under the turntable. This was the background music of my young life, and it stuck with me even as my tastes changed over the years.  Read more...


 

The Consoling Power of Art

The Consoling Power of Art
There are an estimated 42 million unpaid family caregivers in this country (including me), not counting the millions more caring for chronically ill or disabled children, so it’s a shock to learn that the first anthology of poems and short stories about caregiving has just been published in the United States. Not that there aren’t hundreds of helpful nonfiction books, journals, newsletters, websites, blogs, as well as memoirs and novels on the subject, covering every category of patient or need. But a single-volume collection of outstanding short fiction and poetry, reflecting many different takes on this widespread, life-altering experience, has until now been missing, leaving an empty space in our hungry consciousness. Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving (Vanderbilt, 2014), Carol Levine’s selection of fiction and poetry about caregiving by some of the most accomplished writers of our time, is an excellent start to filling it.  Read more...


 

Guess Who’s Confronting Ageism Now?

Guess Who’s Confronting Ageism Now?
Ageism in Silicon Valley has been all over the news lately. “The Brutal Ageism of Tech,” a March 2014 feature story in the New Republic, noted that some male techies, still in their 20s, are contemplating Botox and hair transplants, while middle-aged engineers, a swelling cohort of “highly trained, objectively talented, surpassingly ambitious workers,” are being sidelined “for reasons no one can rationally explain.” Meanwhile, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled “Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem.”  Read more...


 

Passion Is Contagious, Part 1

Passion Is Contagious, Part 1
The sex scene in the film Still Mine (2013) made me want to get in the sack with my husband. We haven’t been married as long as the fictional couple in question, who have racked up over 60 years together. They are awfully attractive— Genevieve Bujold as the petite, witty wife, Irene Morrison; James Cromwell as her husband Craig, 6 foot 7 of upright, craggy manhood.  Read more...


 

Passion Is Contagious, Part 2

Passion Is Contagious, Part 2
I try to see current movies featuring old actors whenever the actors are famous for their art, or the writing and direction promise to offer us real news about later life. Sometimes—often—I am disappointed. Producers choose sentimental, implausible or burlesque scripts; old actors accept the roles because there are so few available. But since 2006, stellar cinematic culture is suddenly waking us to the deep, universal themes of illness in the context of lifelong marriages. I am thinking of four absorbing films.    Read more...


 

Stalked

Stalked
News reports alleging that the NSA has been collecting mobile-phone data have brought to mind a creepy feeling I sometimes get when I am online. Someone is “reading” my mail and likely yours too. Email, that is, as well as your online searches. The proof? Those ads that pop up on the right side of your screen, echoing the email you just wrote a friend about your new diet or the search you just did for sneakers. The ads are not coincidence  Read more...


 

Emily, You Remind Me of Someone

Emily, You Remind Me of Someone
Sometimes fiction is so spot-on believable, I am convinced the author must have walked in the shoes of a particular character. I recently read Emily, Alone, by Stewart O'Nan (2011) and have come to believe that he was once an 80-year-old widow.  Read more...


 

Fifty Shades of I Know Not What

Fifty Shades of I Know Not What
It's been in the headlines of weekly magazines, on the television talk shows, in the book clubs. I am talking about E.L. James's best-selling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey (Vintage, 2012). And just when I thought we were so over that, the movie casting calls, and the speculation and hype that go with that, seem to be never ending, putting the provocative book in the news again.  Read more...


 

Senior Sprayers Make Their Mark

If we want to challenge negative attitudes about aging, we sometimes need to examine our own attitudes first. That’s what German seniors are doing, with the help of younger artists. This intergenerational exchange takes place in the streets rather than in museums, through spray paints rather than oil paints. Graffiti workshops and classes are popping up across the country, and they are surprisingly popular.  Read more...


 

Characters I Almost Missed

Characters I Almost Missed
“You will get paid to read and review current fiction if it has a compelling story with an aging protagonist.” Sounds like a good news-bad news joke, right? I love fiction, I told my boss, but the thought of reading novels starring an older person was filling me with dread. I'm in my mid-50s. I found the assignment depressing.  Read more...


 

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Our Mission

The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.

Notable Quote

"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."

Cicero (106-43 BC)