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Council aims to end ageism in Maine in 10 years

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., discusses concepts in her book, “Ageism Unmasked,” during the ninth annual Maine Wisdom Summit held virtually Wednesday. Kelley Bouchard/Staff Writer

The Maine Council on Aging has set a goal to end ageism in Maine by 2032.

Executive Director Jess Maurer announced the goal Wednesday during the agency’s ninth annual Maine Wisdom Summit, a daylong conference on aging issues.

The summit addresses age as a critical aspect of identity, along with a person’s ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, education, culture, and career. Discrimination based on age increases health care costs by $63 billion annually, a Yale University study found. Ageism also reduced the U.S. gross domestic product by $850 billion in 2018, according to AARP.

“Ageism is holding us back,” Maurer told more than 300 participants at Wednesday’s virtual gathering. Summits were held at the Augusta Civic Center before the pandemic and will be held in person again next year, Maurer said.

Founded 10 years ago, the council’s membership includes dozens of companies, municipalities and organizations across Maine. Maurer said the council is committed to building an age-positive movement that will result in a healthier population, workforce and culture.

“Ageism is embedded and invisible in our culture,” said Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., a gerontologist and author of “Ageism Unmasked,” a book about age bias and how to end it. Gendron gave the keynote address for the summit’s morning session.

“We are all aging, so we need to break down the barriers of aging being about other people,” Gendron said. “Aging is not just about loss. It’s also about growth.”

Ageism impacts people of all ages, she said, it’s reflected in labels and stereotypes applied to different age groups, whether it’s that millennials are lazy or boomers are out of touch.

Gendron noted that negative attitudes about getting older dominate across the globe, where consumers spent $42 billion on anti-aging products in 2020, according to Brandessence Market Research.

She also highlighted connections between ageism – discrimination based on age – and ableism – discrimination based on ability. Experts in the field say most buildings and public facilities are built to be accessible for able-bodied men.

“Our society is built on ageist/ableist foundations,” Gendron said, pointing out that a person using a walker and a parent pushing a stroller face similar challenges getting around.

This story will be updated.

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