A Book on Ageism

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against AgeismThis Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ageism is an important topic. The first two chapters chart that it exists and why it matters. The next chapters trace misinformation about aging and studies that refute that misinformation: memory, health, sex, working. Next comes a discussion of delusions of independence, of ways to be dependent yet retain control. The overall organization is good.

Within the sections, it felt like a random list of studies. It could have used more transitional clues. In one case the list went from studies she disagreed with (no clue given of disagreement) to a study that contradicted the previous ones with no signals to guide the reader.

Another small quibble: Although Applewhite explains her need for new terminology, I wasn’t fully convinced. And every time “olders” came up, it was jarring. (And I have no problem with being called “old.”)

Two other areas where I have mixed feelings: Applewhite discusses how we each contain all the ages we have been, and that is a good insight. However, to derive from that the idea that maybe we should not tell our age seems to reinvoke the ageism of not telling our true age. The other is about all people identifying as “an older person in training.” In general, this seems a good tactic, especially for younger people. It seems to take some of the “Other” aspects away from Old people. My only caution is that as we get older and still use it, it seems to contradict that we are now old (even as it acknowledges our getting older). Still, that aging is a continuum is an important insight.

On to what I liked. “Aging means living” and all the insights around the idea. The chapter on death and dying–first delinking it from aging into its own section. Second, clarifying the difference between “right to die” and “duty to die,” the former an important thing enabling a letting go and the latter an ageist thing based on misunderstandings of aging and the view from inside.

The strongest point Applewhite makes is her quoting Jane Fonda’s saying that age looks better from inside than from outside. She makes the point early on and elaborates about individuals looking ahead with fear and being old and finding pleasure. It gets reinforced at the end of the book when she looks at what society says about aging Vs the individuals’ experiences of it.

It is an important book on an important subect.

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4 responses to “A Book on Ageism

  1. Book sounds interesting. I used to try and hide my age but now I am bolder now. After a while you sort of stop caring so much 🙂

  2. My Mother-in-law told me years ago, “You don’t get old; your body plays tricks on you” and I totally agree!

  3. Betty Colburn

    My favorite thought on aging came from my first husband’s grandfather, a long time West Texas farmer. “Age ain’t nothin’. It’s your mental attitude and your physical condition”.

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