Making the world less ageist… one person at a time

Jessica Duffy, Good Practice Mentor at Leeds Older People’s Forum, spells out the dangers of ageism and describes the work she is doing to combat it.

I’m running a solo Wise Up to Ageism session this week.. 

It’s a bit scary – I’ve always done it before with Leeds colleagues – but I know it works and I know I can do it.

I’ve also just had a birthday. The numbers are getting bigger. I am trying to be brave about being 60 next year (not that I’m really worrying, I just have that odd disconnect I imagine lots of people have, where I’m definitely still about 25 in my head). I’ve just started a new job, and I’ll be 61 3/4 by the time the funding comes to an end.

All these things are making me a bit thoughtful. I want to think I don’t live in an ageist society – I’m in this happy bubble at the moment, working with colleagues in an older people’s organisation where nothing bad happens to us (in an ageist way) – but I know I’m lucky. 

I have a job with funding for the next three years. I get to learn new things all the time and am happy to wrestle bits of the digital world into submission as I go. But I know that the three years will go very quickly and I’ll still be in my early 60s. Another five years until I get a pension, and I might not find it easy to get another job (I know my brother hasn’t, and he’s two years younger than me). I might have to learn another new thing – will anyone want to bother teaching me?

That said, I have to say, to be totally fair, that my manager has just offered me the chance to join an apprenticeship scheme. It just made me realise how much of my life I spent as a project manager – without the letters after my name – and how much I’d like not to do that again – but maybe I’ll find something else to expand my skill set in time.

Outside my bubble the world is an ageist place – us older people laugh at the youngsters with their endless coffees and avocado toast (and we worry about their future too) and the youngsters are encouraged to think about old people who are ‘all’ lucky and rich. Indeed some of us have had great good luck on the way through – but not everyone who is a pensioner now is rich. The diversity training I did at work earlier this year underlined the unconscious ageism – it was pretty good as these things go, there were lots of video clips and they were scrupulous about showing men, women, visible disabilities and people from a range of visibly different ethnic backgrounds – but they were all but one in their 30s, or doing their best to look like they were.

So if I want to live in a less ageist society I need to do the slightly scary thing, and take our Wise Up To Ageism (WUTA) courses outside Leeds where my Friendly Communities colleagues are doing their bit to make Leeds an Age Friendly place, and see if I can spread the word. I’ve got two years and nine months to make the world a better place for all generations. It will be a pleasure to deliver WUTA to HACT this week but I’m going to need more than just those housing officers to help me change the world.

To book online or face-to-face WUTA training for your organisation, contact me to find out more, contact the Centre for Ageing Better to find out more about the Age Friendly movement. Or if you are here in Leeds talk to my colleagues about becoming an Age Friendly business.

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