Just a Thought: Age-Friendly or Ageism?

“All applicants for Community Development Block Grant funds must address these goals: to enhance quality of life for individuals with mental illness, substance abuse disorders, individuals with disabilities, formerly incarcerated and seniors.”
—Age-Friendly Application Form

Yikes! Age-Friendly or Ageism?

I’m delighted that the Athens-Clarke County Government has joined the AARP Age-Friendly Network, but I must confess to being a little taken aback when I read that part of their application. While an ally of those vulnerable population groups, I hadn’t thought of myself as one of them. Of course, there was no harm intended, but it does illustrate how tricky the line can be between age-friendly and ageism.

A recent article in The New York Times ran smack into the same issue. “Why Older People Managed to Stay Happier Through the Pandemic,” inspired hundreds of reader comments. While many attributed senior happiness to the resilience gained from experience, others rightfully pointed out that seniors are not a one-size-fits-all group, and that there was too much generalization in the study cited when there are so many variables.

My Boomer friends and acquaintances run the gamut: some have very comfortable retirements, and love to garden or travel or create; others work in grocery stores to supplement their income; some of us start businesses. A few are raising their grandchildren and many are leaders in organizations that would collapse without the bulwark of their volunteer work.

And it’s clear we all age physically and mentally at different rates. I’m looking forward to not just the re-start of my book group and dining out, but also to dancing like an idiot.* One of my dear friends I hitchhiked around England with 50 years ago has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She and I have very different needs.

So, what should Athens do to become more age-friendly, and at the same time, avoid enforcing ageist attitudes? Please email me at Betsy@boomathens.com and we’ll share your comments and ideas with our readers and with the folks at ACC.

* “The Importance of Dancing Like an Idiot,” The School of Life: Leisure: Small Pleasures


Betsy Bean
Betsy Bean
Betsy Bean completed graduate school at UGA in 1972. She was a school librarian for a year and then became a rock and roll DJ for the next 10. Subsequently, she worked as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, followed by public relations and marketing and newsletter publishing and was, more recently, the downtown development director for the City of Anniston, Ala.

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