Ageism is part of a far wider cultural problem...
THE CYCLE OF AGEISM AND HOW WE END IT
AIM’s mission is to change the narrative of age and aging in entertainment and media. We often get asked: Why is that important? Why should anyone care about how older people are represented in entertainment and media? After all, once we’ve sold our first screenplay or book, the biggest worry we have is how we furnish our beach house, right?
We all know from experience this is far from the case as many older creatives find themselves in extreme poverty and shunned by the business we love. The fact that older creatives are unable to find or retain work just because of age is disturbing. What makes this even more alarming is that it’s a symptom of the much bigger problem of the systematic exclusion of older people from many parts of life.
We have a problem with age. Ageism means older people face long-term unemployment, forced retirement, poverty, and social exclusion. At the same time, we’re facing major, urgent economic challenges such as the rising costs of pensions, healthcare, and Social Security.
We believe the solution to one is the solution to the other. If we can get older people fully integrated back into work and life, we empower people to live and work independently for much longer. In turn, we increase productivity, improve well-being, and reduce the likelihood of economic dependency in later life.
Thanks to extensive research we have the data to know what the problem is. In the academic, governmental, and nonprofit worlds, we have many great minds arming us for change. But outside of these sectors, we don’t yet have the hearts of the public to make seismic change happen. We remain short of a moment and a movement that leads to a mass, positive action in how we treat age, aging, and the older populations.
For us to bring about a meaningful change we must transform how people feel about age. The public must be sparked into action because they love, desire, are in awe of, aspire to, are inspired by, and want to cheer for older people and characters they care about. As creators of popular culture, that’s something we have the power to make happen.
If we change the narrative of age in media and entertainment, we can change how people feel about age. Through AIM and our mission, we can help reshape our world for the improvement of everyone’s mental, social, and economic health.
Why Ageism is Prevalent - The Cycle of Ageism
For a long time, we’ve had creative underrepresentation in film and TV, as well as in other media and creative industries like advertising. Once underrepresentation happens, we get inaccurate portrayals. If unchallenged, these create stereotypes, tropes, and half-truths which eventually become accepted as fact. We learn to act on these “facts”, and they become embedded in our culture and society. In other words, we act as if the created stereotypes are real and true. This means we get a cycle of behavior:
Under-representation of older people in the creative industries --
Leads to poor portrayals of older people in the media --
Which creates and sustains a negative perception of older people --
That allows us to normalize the bad treatment of older people --
Which circles back and allows us to maintain under-representation in the creative industries.
What we write becomes what we show, becomes what we believe, and then what we do. And when what we do removes older workers in the creative industries, we compound the problem and head towards even greater exclusion and underrepresentation.
The Impact of Under-Representation of Age
If we are to believe what we see on film and TV, older people are always dealing with loss and loneliness, are clueless about tech, are stuck in the past, are racist and sexist, are battling dementia, always have an illness that’s moderate to severe, and whose deaths are imminent - but not to worry, because when that happens, it’ll probably be hilarious.
When we take these cliches as fact, it’s just common sense to not hire older people.
The problem is, these tropes are not supported by data. Countless studies show that older people are more successful at starting a business, are adaptable, creative, productive, and able to work alongside, with, and under the supervision of people of all ages. But, outside of the age-conscious movement, we wouldn't know it. The impact of these studies hasn’t shifted our consciousness and without that shift, we cannot bring about change.
How We Fix It – The Cycle of Inclusion
Some people like to read dry reports on ageism, think long and hard about their impact, and then propose potential solutions. The rest of us like to watch Netflix.
We can bring about a mass, meaningful change by making people laugh and cry and then feel differently about older age. After all, in entertainment, we’re in the emotion delivery business, so we’re in the best place to do this. And, as with so much in the business, that starts with the written word.
If we WRITE accurate portrayals --
We can SHOW those portrayals --
We can BELIEVE those portrayals to be true --
And that allows us to DO the right thing based on those portrayals.
We write. We show. We believe. We do.
And when we achieve age inclusivity in entertainment and media, on-screen and off, this can become a powerful template for others to act in an age-positive way.
Why We Must End Age-Exclusion Now
As Social Security, pensions, and healthcare costs increase we must turn to age inclusivity as a solution. The fight against ageism in entertainment and media is the keystone on which other sectors can benefit. Unlocking age inclusivity in entertainment will have a profound impact on all our economic, social, and cultural lives. Inclusion is always good business. Age inclusivity in entertainment is great business.
The best time to end ageism was a generation ago. The second best time is now. This time, we have to get it right, and this time, it starts with all of us.
We Write. We Show. We Believe. We Do. Together.