Changing the conversation about aging

People are living longer and, for the most part, healthier lives. We’re also sharing our accumulated wisdom and insights to benefit our communities.

But society has a different view. We are conditioned to focus on the downside of aging. To disguise and avoid most things associated with aging. To internalize negative stereotypes and ageist attitudes. And we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

As the only regional funder focused on healthy aging, Tufts Health Plan Foundation sees the consequences of this thinking almost every day. Ageism creates obstacles to policy changes, erodes support for programs and reduces interest in innovations that make our communities great places to grow up and grow old.

That’s why we got involved in Reframing Aging, a national initiative to change the conversation about aging. Based on research conducted by Washington, D.C.-based FrameWorks Institute and supported by aging organizations across the country, the initiative hopes to change attitudes about aging in America – and forge a new path to more productive policy making.

FrameWorks started with a simple question: “How can the field of aging help build a better understanding of aging, ageism, and what it will take to create a more age-integrated society?”

mis·per·cep·tion (/ˌmispərˈsepSH(ə)n/), noun: a wrong or incorrect understanding or interpretation

Their research exposed deeply held misperceptions around aging – that it’s happening to “other people,” that it’s inevitably a time of decline and decay, and that individual choices determine how a person will age.

Armed with this data, the FrameWorks team developed and tested messages designed to counter these misperceptions. These experts in communications strategy and messaging then taught us how to “share and tell a common story…to drive meaningful social change.”

We now had the tools to change the conversation.

We began sharing the Reframing Aging concepts with our allies and community influencers.

More than 2,000 people in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island heard about this new way of talking about aging and ageism. Similar efforts are now underway in other parts of the country. And a movement is taking shape.