Celebrating 40 years
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People are living longer and, for the most part, healthier lives. We’re also sharing our accumulated wisdom and insights to benefit our communities.

But society has a different view. We are conditioned to focus on the downside of aging. To disguise and avoid most things associated with aging. To internalize negative stereotypes and ageist attitudes. And we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

age·ism (/ˈājˌizəm/), noun: stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age

As the only regional funder focused on healthy aging, Tufts Health Plan Foundation sees the consequences of this thinking almost every day. Ageism creates obstacles to policy changes, erodes support for programs and reduces interest in innovations that make our communities great places to grow up and grow old.

That’s why we got involved in Reframing Aging, a national initiative to change the conversation about aging. Based on research conducted by Washington, D.C.-based FrameWorks Institute and supported by aging organizations across the country, the initiative hopes to change attitudes about aging in America – and forge a new path to more productive policy making.

FrameWorks started with a simple question: “How can the field of aging help build a better understanding of aging, ageism, and what it will take to create a more age-integrated society?”

mis·per·cep·tion (/ˌmispərˈsepSH(ə)n/), noun: a wrong or incorrect understanding or interpretation

Their research exposed deeply held misperceptions around aging – that it’s happening to “other people,” that it’s inevitably a time of decline and decay, and that individual choices determine how a person will age.

Armed with this data, the FrameWorks team developed and tested messages designed to counter these misperceptions. These experts in communications strategy and messaging then taught us how to “share and tell a common story…to drive meaningful social change.”

We now had the tools to change the conversation.

We began sharing the Reframing Aging concepts with our allies and community influencers.

More than 2,000 people in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island heard about this new way of talking about aging and ageism. Similar efforts are now underway in other parts of the country. And a movement is taking shape.

mo·men·tum (/mōˈmen(t)əm/), noun: the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events

At every presentation we made and conference we attended, we asked if there was interest in learning more about how to apply the Reframing Aging principles. Hearing a resounding yes, we worked to include this effort in Massachusetts' Age-Friendly State Plan, making changing the conversation about aging a top priority.

This summer and fall we offered workshops and webinars on how to tell a new story about aging. Nearly 350 people attended the webinars and 50 people joined us for full-day workshops with hands-on practice.

We asked participants: Do you intend to address ageism using the reframing tools and messaging you learned today? 88% agreed/strongly agreed

cham·pi·on (/ˈchampēən/, noun: a person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else

Early indicators show progress. Rhode Island’s Office of Healthy Aging, 2Life Communities and Boston’s Age Strong Commission exemplify reframing in action.

Local communities are garnering media coverage when adult centers and community centers drop outdated names. The Alzheimer’s Association is applying reframing principles to their communications. And a recent Boston Globe headline read “Generations mix at a Boston brewery to change the conversation about aging.”

Moving forward, we’ll continue to collaborate with colleagues from Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire and other regions to learn from each other and share resources.

Words matter, and we’re seeing their powerful impact.

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