Age, the Final Frontier: Seniors Slowly, but Surely, are Joining the “Silver Revolution” ;+) — 11/13/2014

For Your Entertainment (FYE)

That may not be your “revolution”, yet; but, don’t laugh too soon about it……;+)

“Before Boston police detained Ann A. Stewart last August, she had a clean record. But she vows not to wait long, certainly not another 89 years, to become a repeat offender.”

“Ms. Stewart, 89, a retired hospital employee, was arrested while chanting slogans with a few co-conspirators from inside an imitation jail cell to protest the doubling of the local paratransit fare to $4. Protest organizers erected the fake prison in the middle of the city’s busy Stuart Street to symbolize the fare increase’s effect on disabled riders on fixed incomes, and to block traffic. Ms. Stewart’s arresting officer — “a very nice young man,” she recalled — did not place her in handcuffs and let her keep her cane.”

“Ms. Stewart, who does not use paratransit herself, treasures the memory of her approximately two hours in custody. “It means a lot to me,” she said. “I’m very strong in my belief about certain things a senior should be able to do.””

“Not long after the August protest (which was part of a longer campaign), the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rolled back the paratransit fare by one dollar — evidence, in Ms. Stewart’s opinion, that older adults must aggressively fight for their rights.”

“In Europe, older protesters often make noise. In 2012, throngs of Greek pensioners marched in Athens to oppose austerity measures. Last October, a raucous crowd estimated at 10,000 rallied in front of the Irish Parliament to denounce medical benefit cuts for people over 65.”

“For now, the senior rights movement in America remains relatively muted. Perhaps as Tom Hayden, the 1960s activist, suggested, the “price of some success is that the voluntary activist groups can feel less needed.” Could older Americans just be complacent? Maybe demonstrating in the streets is best left to the young? Or perhaps, as one experienced activist argued, unfavorable media coverage of events like Occupy Wall Street gives protesting a bad name.”

“Whatever the reasons, several social scientists say deteriorating conditions for retirees and older Americans in general — intensifying fear about retirement security, age discrimination, increasing poverty among the elderly and new threats to cut programs for seniors — could be the impetus for what some are calling a “silver revolution.”

““Now would be the time for senior rights movements to mobilize once again,” Andrea Louise Campbell, author of “How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Citizen Activism and the American Welfare State,” suggested in an email. Ms. Campbell pointed to recent proposals by politicians to trim Social Security benefits and convert Medicare into a voucher program as actions meriting a response.”

““If there’s a direct threat to Social Security or Medicare, that’s when you do see people mobilizing,” said Jill B. Quadagno, a professor of sociology at Florida State University who studies social gerontology. Ms. Quadagno recounted that in 1964, roughly 14,000 protesters, predominantly retirees, marched outside the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J. The National Council of Senior Citizens, backed by the A.F.L.-C.I.O., staged the show of force to prod politicians to support President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proposal for Medicare, which was enacted the next year. Later that decade and in the 1970s, advocates for older adults battled to expand Social Security, winning, among other policy changes, automatic cost-of-living adjustments.”

“In 1970, Maggie Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers to combat age discrimination and establish an intergenerational coalition for social justice. Her longtime employer, the United Presbyterian Church, had forced Ms. Kuhn to retire at 65. In 1986, after sustained pressure from the Gray Panthers and other advocates, President Ronald W. Reagan, then 75, joined with the 73-year-old speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., to abolish the mandatory retirement age. Ms. Kuhn, who traded barbs with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” became a pop culture figure; at the height of the Gray Panthers’ power in the early 1980s, the organization had roughly 60,000 financial contributors.”

“The Gray Panthers’ influence ebbed in the mid-1980s and eroded further after Ms. Kuhn’s death in 1995, which “drained the social movement of its energy,” Vincent Roscigno, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said in an email. Writing in Z MagazineEric Laursen analyzed the Gray Panthers as “victims of their own success,” in that they achieved many of their early initiatives.”

“The well-funded, 37-million-member American Association of Retired Persons (later renamed AARP), founded in 1958, also emerged as a front-line advocate for senior citizens, but the organization performs its advocacy work through more traditional lobbying efforts, not street protests. While the AARP pushes “important ideas that are important for older people,” said Eric R. Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University who studies aging, “they’re not the Gray Panthers.””

“The Gray Panthers organization now has roughly 15,000 members and a diminished public profile. Sally Brown, the group’s current executive director, blames the flagging troop strength on a general lack of activism in America and a “corporatized” media that “demonized” social movements like Occupy Wall Street. “The activism then just gets squelched and doesn’t lead to the change that people see, so that’s disempowering to people, and they disengage,” said Ms. Brown.”

““I wish Maggie were here,” said Mr. Kingson. But even without a charismatic general, he predicted the senior rights movement would charge forward. “We’re not France. When they tried to raise the retirement age, people went to the barricades,” he said. “But if we are pushed far enough as a people, there will be a reaction. Many people are right on edge, maintaining their standard of living as retirees. I think they are scared.””

“Data supports Mr. Kingson’s premise. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reported in 2013 that more than half of working-age households faced a deteriorating standard of living in retirement. A Pew Research Center survey published in 2012 found that the percentage of people ages 55 to 64 who doubt that they will have enough to live on during retirement rose to 39 percent in 2012 from 26 percent in 2009. And the number of seniors experiencing hunger rose 200 percent between 2001 and 2011, according to a report by the Meals on Wheels Research Foundation.”

“Pervasive biases against older employees should radicalize seniors across the political spectrum, said Mr. Roscigno, an expert on workplace discrimination. “We live in a society consumed and obsessed by freshness and youth,” said Mr. Roscigno. “This can and does culminate in discrimination in hiring, in firing and in general harassment.”

When aging workers lose their jobs, he noted, they find it far more difficult than younger colleagues to find re-employment. The number of age discrimination cases filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by more than 50 percent from 1999 to 2013.”

“Images of aging picketers carrying canes and protest signs are potent weapons in the advocacy arsenal, said Mr. Hayden. “We live very much now in a protest era that concentrates on the visual entirely, so, yes, the elderly in the front ranks holding the right placards does make a difference to political consultants,” he said.”

“But getting arrested during a protest can take a toll on elderly activists. “It’s always uncomfortable when you have steel on your soft tissues,” said Alfred Klinger, an 87-year-old retired physician who was handcuffed during a protest in Chicago in 2011 over threatened cuts to social service programs.”

“Mr. Hayden, 74, who as one of the “Chicago Eight” was indicted on federal charges of incitement to riot after street protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, is admittedly skittish about attending demonstrations these days.”

““The fact that I had heart surgery 12 years ago is a contributing factor,” he acknowledged. “I don’t really want to be pepper-sprayed if I can avoid it. It wouldn’t bother me if it was 1968.””

“Manning the barricades, Mr. Hayden said, might be a younger person’s mission. But he added: “If you hear of any new movements for climate protection or women’s rights or anything else led by 80-year-olds, let me know. Sign me up.””

“The Gray Panthers is an organization in the United States, which was founded in 1970 by Maggie Kuhn in response to her forced retirement at age 65.”

“As of 2005, the organization supported a single-payer healthcare system, as well as an increase in welfarepayments, pacifism, “lifelong public education”, the rights of workers, reproductive rights, abolition of the death penalty, legalization of same-sex marriage, the legalization of medical marijuana, and environmentalism through advocacy, education and action.”

“Single-payer health care is a system in which the government, rather than private insurers, pays for all health care costs. Single-payer systems may contract for healthcare services from private organizations (as is the case in Canada) or may own and employ healthcare resources and personnel (as is the case in the United Kingdom). The term “single-payer” thus only describes the funding mechanism—referring to health care financed by a single public body from a single fund—and does not specify the type of delivery, or for whom doctors work. The actual funding of a “single payer” system comes from all or a portion of the covered population. Although the fund holder is usually the state, some forms of single-payer use a mixed public-private system.”

“Ageism (also spelled “agism”)  is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. The term was coined in 1971 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism. Butler defined “ageism” as a combination of three connected elements. Among them were prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about older people.

“The term has also been used to describe prejudice and discrimination against adolescents and children, including ignoring their ideas because they are too young, or assuming that they should behave in certain ways because of their age.

“Ageism in common parlance and age studies usually refers to negative discriminatory practices against old people, people in their middle years, teenagers and children. There are several forms of age-related bias. Adultism is a predisposition towards adults, which is seen as biased against children, youth, and all young people who are not addressed or viewed as adults. Jeunism is the discrimination against older people in favor of younger ones. This includes political candidacies, jobs, and cultural settings where the supposed greater vitality and/or physical beauty of youth is more appreciated than the supposed greater moral and/or intellectual rigor of adulthood.”

Adultcentricism is the “exaggerated egocentrism of adults.” Adultocracy is the social convention which defines “maturity” and “immaturity,” placing adults in a dominant position over young people, both theoretically and practically. Gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population. Chronocentrism is primarily the belief that a certain state of humanity is superior to all previous and/or future times.

“Based on a conceptual analysis of ageism, a new definition of ageism was introduced by Iversen, Larsen, & Solem in 2009. This definition constitutes the foundation for higher reliability and validity in future research about ageism and its complexity offers a new way of systemizing theories on ageism: “Ageism is defined as negative or positive stereotypes, prejudice and/or discrimination against (or to the advantage of) elderly people on the basis of their chronological age or on the basis of a perception of them as being ‘old’ or ‘elderly’. Ageism can be implicit or explicit and can be expressed on a micro-, meso- or macro-level” (Iversen, Larsen & Solem, 2009).

“Other conditions of fear or aversion associated with age groups have their own names, particularly: paedophobia, the fear of infants and children; ephebiphobia, the fear of youth, sometimes also referred to as an irrational fear of adolescents or a prejudice against teenagers; and gerontophobia, the fear of elderly people.”


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