Last fall, we wrote about ageism on our blog, which the World Health Organization has described as “a widespread and insidious practice which has harmful effects.” One woman by the name of Barbara Rose Brooker has taken it upon herself to create a movement to combat ageism, which she says “impacts people of all ages, not just older adults.” Her Age March movement, which first started in 2009, is going international this month for the first time with the help of a little Hollywood magic and some celebrity attention and support.
Recently, Institute on Aging caught up with Brooker to find out more about this year’s Age March, happening on March 27, and how Brooker envisions it can change the way we think about aging. Brooker, who is 84, is the author of 13 books including The Viagra Diaries—and has been a guest speaker at Institute on Aging events. IOA is also a star supporter of the Age March event.
What’s the impetus behind Age March?
Because of the name, people may perceive Age March as a movement for older people, but it’s really about people of ALL ages, because as a society, we are all ageing together every day. We have people in their 20s and 30s who participate in our movement.
In the way that the gay pride movement has positively impacted the LGBTQ community, I hope that Age March will transform our world, and we will cease to put people into groups or “cubby holes” based on age. My hope is that we will do away with all forms of age-shaming and fear surrounding age. I’m passionately against age segregation and the perceived lack of opportunities that people have after they reach a certain age.
What was the “a-ha” moment that inspired you to create Age March?
When I was a single mother in my 30s, I went back to college. They asked me to wear a name tag that indicated I was a “re-entry student.” It felt very wrong to me; I was a student like anyone else but that badge indicated I was different because of my age. Then I had a dream one night, in which there was a big march and people were rallying against ageism. These two things served as the inspiration for Age March, which I started a number of years later in 2009.
What’s different about this year’s Age March event?
This is the first year that we’ve gone truly global—and there’s a crackerjack team of Hollywood producers behind it that has put together a first-rate virtual event. We have 9,000 followers globally signed up at AgeMarch.org, and hope we will have many more before it’s all said and done.
We also have an international celebrity host, Canadian television personality Tracy Melchor, and an official sponsor, Revitalash.
Our virtual event, on March 27 at 1 p.m. Pacific Time, will be broadcast on Facebook Live, Instagram, YouTube and other social media channels.
What can the public do to be more sensitive to ageism and to stop it from happening?
There are so many age clichés that people use every day without thinking about what they are saying. “You look good for your age,” is one of the most common ones. So being more sensitive about how we are labeling others based on their chronological age is a good place to start. We can also inspire companies to stop branding products as “anti-age” or “anti-wrinkle,” which makes aging sound like it’s tragic.
Older adults can also contribute by standing up for themselves and owning their age instead of putting themselves down or apologizing for it. Don’t allow yourself to be or feel segregated from others based on your age.
What is your vision for the future of this movement?
It’s pretty straightforward: around the world in every country, age pride will be the norm, and we will be a unified, integrated world where age won’t be an issue. We will all age together and own our age. After all, all of us are aging every single minute as we go through this journey we call life!
To join the Age March on March 27 at 1 p.m. PT, visit ioaging.org/agemarch.