Wild Parrots Living in Brooklyn
Ageist Joke or Not?

Changing the Culture of Age


Abigailtrafford Abigail Trafford is the weekly My Time columnist at the Washington Post and now that Donald M. Murray, who wrote a column for the Boston Globe, has died she is one of only two people at a big-city newspapers writing regularly about getting old.

For the new year, she offered a “big resolution:” to change the culture of aging and she lists ten excellent ways to get started. Here are five of them, but I urge you to read the whole story.

Plan beyond money: Too many people, writes Ms. Trafford, ask themselves only if they have enough money for their old age. She believes the first question should be, What am I going to do in these years? On average, we live 30 years longer than people did a century ago.

Redefine work: Trafford is advocating for flexible work schedules which would also benefit working parents. This has been urged for years and it’s time it became de rigeur in corporate America.

Expose Ageism: “Prejudice against older people is insidious,” writes Trafford, from healthcare to the media to the workplace. We’ll keep pointing it out here at TGB.

Put aging on the political agenda: Social Security and Medicare are important, but we need, too, to change laws and create opportunities “to tap into the potential of an unprecedented cohort of vital older Americans.”

Change the language: As I regularly rag on here at TGB, this is the starting point. When you change the language, you change how people think. “Retire the word ‘retire’”, says Trafford, “which implies withdrawing from life.” Hear, hear.

Ms. Trafford’s piece is true in every word and we need, all of us, to work on this. The entire story is here.


Has Ms. Trafford been writing this column for very long? She seems well educated on the subject.

You mentioned two columnists, one being Ms. Trafford...who the the second?

Thanks for the story link!

Pattie: Liz Taylor is a regular columnist on aging for the Seattle Times. She focuses on practicalities of caring for aging parents and one's own future needs often in a Q&A format.

Ms. Trafford takes on the bigger political and social issues related to aging.

Without Donald Murray in the Boston Globe, there is no one writing regularly in a large-circulation publication on aging in daily life or from a personal point of view.


You would be a fine addition to any newspaper. Your writing and blogs on aging would have a large appreciative audience.

What do you think?

I agree w/ Chancy above. You hone in on a lot of topics, Ronni.

I'm just turning 50 but when I was in my late 20s, I looked up and saw my age living in non-lock-step -- a huge change from those even just 10 years ahead of me.

Retirement is out the window... a passe idea. I think things are changing as we write it/live it/become it/realize it.

Wonderful Posting Ronnie...this is the mission for my site. I endorse Ms Trafford's call for action, but also suggest there is a deeper philosophical aspect to this if we are to truly transform the culture of aging. We need to remember this is about who we are, not our circumstances and we are never victims of ageism unless we give our power to the contemporary conversation of what we can and cannot do and what is and is not possible. We will never transform the culture of aging until we transform ourselves.

I really like Ms. Trafford's thoughts but I fear that what she is asking won't happen in this lifetime and that's a crying shame.

A P.S. to my post above:
Check out the article in the Economist on the Gray Work Force.

Worth a read.

I'll try again:
The Economist, Manpower: the grey workforce.

Thanks for this piece and links, Ronni, with many ideas that reflect much of what you've been saying for some time. I sent emails to Ms. Trafford and Ms. Taylor with words of praise and recommendations to visit here, but perhaps they already know about TGB and you. I think we need to support writers such as these and encourage other writers with our direct contact that they're reaching readers.

I echo Chancy and others who would like to see a column, video, anything giving you and your ideas more exposure.

The Economist article referenced by Mother Pie includes: "The demand for greater flexibility will grow. Wal-Mart, for instance, has begun implementing a new computerised scheduling system to move its more than 1m workers to new types of shifts. The world's biggest retailer wants shifts to be based on the number of shoppers in its stores. So workers would come and go in groups during busy and slack times of the day."

This sounds good but I overheard a non-Wal-Mart employee who works in health care and been subject to some undesirable manipulation of her work hours greatly interfering with planning and a personal life, state that after learning how this plan would impact the employees, she is making all of her purchases elsewhere now.

The point is that the part time and flexible scheduling many of us have or want is also ripe for employee exploitation by the employer. We will need to examine the plans that are offered carefully.

There are many problems to work out, joared, which doesn't mean they can't be. One of the big problems with the Wal-Mart plan, in addition to what you note, is that even more part-time employees can be denied benefits, i.e. healthcare coverage.

Seeing my pet-peeve malapropism used in the comments, above, I just have to speak up, even though it's entirely unrelated to Ronni's post (except in the technical details of her ongoing message that language matters). This mistake occurs so frequently in our language, that most people think the wrong use of "hone" is correct. So my intent isn't to blame anyone; it's simply to take advantage of the occurence to educate. Ronni HOMES IN on lots of issues, and thus deserves a wider audience...

Ronni, check out The Miami Herald's Claire Mitchel, if you haven't read her before. She writes only for the Broward County edition but has been doing a 'Third Third' column for several years now. She's a wonderful writer, and person. Latest column: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/claire_mitchel/16394733.htm

I am 60 and can't decide whether to retire. On the one hand I am worried about the loss of a sense of purpose - having a clear structure to my life and a recognized role. I don't want to turn overnight from a `university lecturer` to an `old age pensioner`. On the other hand, how lovely to do what I want to do every day for the first time for 40 years. No more horrid politics, stress, pressure, feeling exhausted. - But then the kids always need a bit of financial help...???

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