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Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Ph D, is a leading scholar in age studies—especially ageism’s effects on the midlife years. Feminism had brought changes for women, rights movements had brought changes for black people and disabled people, and the—well, there was no widespread, organized movement for older people. Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Ph D, for one, was optimistic.For more than 35 years, through books, essays and teaching, Gullette has educated people about ageism and provided thoughtful commentary on the changing American culture. In 1988, the midlife-studies scholar published a book called Safe at Last in the Middle Years about how middle age wasn’t always depicted as such a downer in fiction anymore. Unfortunately, it got stalled somewhere along the way.(“They” refers to people causing or benefiting from the “subjugation” of older people.) “They destroy confidence in our own powers, lessen our autonomy, and make many accept, willingly or not, an unnecessarily dependent or abject life.” To begin to reduce ageism, Gullette calls for “a revolution in perception and empathy” across all ages and throughout society.
Then there are the people who want to cut out the social safety net—the entire Republican Congress right now.
They want to cut Social Security, Medicare—what I call the first-generation solutions to ageism. SCF: You want to start a revolution against ageism. MMG: Children should be where families start in anti-ageism.
SCF: The 13 items in your “Declaration of Grievances” are varied and inclusive.
For example, you mention distorted depictions of older people in the arts, discriminatory laws and hiring practices, and the treatment of older people as burdens. MMG: The “Declaration of Grievances” covers the grievances that the book covers. Now when I started writing the book, I did not think that I was going to write the “Declaration of Grievances.” In fact, quite the contrary.
And in 1989, at 47 years old, she wrote an essay for the New York Times called “Midlife Exhilaration.” “As the largest age group in the country, our tastes, our opinions, our dollars can make changes,” she wrote in the essay. In fact, since she began studying it, ageism has strengthened, Gullette, now 75, contends—and it’s hitting people younger than ever.
“Lacking its own passionate movement, ageism remains the most stubbornly, perplexing naturalized of the isms,” Gullette points out in her latest book, (2017).
Education—while it can’t do everything in this ageist ideology, it can do a lot. The first 10 minutes of every class—it could be longer—I asked students to come in with anything that was about age or ageism.
So I focus in the book  on the college years, and I actually have a chapter that’s about teaching anti-ageism in a freshman composition course. Some of them might want to do a Google search for ageism, and they would find the material.
This article is the next in our series on the future of aging: interviews with people who are experts in their fields and are also visionaries.
We’re asking them to talk about what they believe will happen in the years ahead to change the experience of aging.