Still fighting ageism in the ‘modern’ era

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Opinion

March 12, 2019 - 10:16 AM

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A recent article in The Atlantic, titled “The Invisibility of Older Women,” by Akiko Busch, struck a deep chord. Having turned 65 last month, I have been welcomed, on more than one occasion, to the age of Medicare. In addition to this milestone, I became a grandmother for the first time in late January. This blessed event brought with it as many questions about whether I’d be called “Grandmom or Granny” as it did about my eagerness to babysit and prepare freezer meals for the busy new parents.

At a time when younger women have a wealth of female role models over 60, ranging from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (85) to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (78) to Angela Merkel (64), why do so many women of my generation continue to feel compelled to raise awareness and sensitivity to ageism in 2019? Many close friends and I have recently reinvented ourselves in new careers, despite encountering along the way colleagues and a supervisor or two guilty of prejudiced phrases such as, “at your age,” “at this stage in your career” or one of the most infuriating, “isn’t it time just to slow down and smell the roses?”

Take the recent Michael Cohen hearing the morning of Feb. 27, as an example. Eleanor Holmes Norton, appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first female chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1977, has gone on to serve 15 terms as the delegate at large representing the District of Columbia in the U.S. House of Representatives. At age 81, she asked sharp and probing questions during the Cohen hearing. Doing the meaningful work of a civil rights advocate is nothing new to Congresswoman Norton. Ironically, hers was not the media focus in the day’s coverage of Mr. Cohen’s testimony. That was 29-year-old superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who emerged once again as the media darling and designated “future” of the Democratic Party. Not to pit young against old, but with age comes experience. One can only hope that the “future” will stand on the shoulders of experience and wisdom.

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