Older people play vital roles in society. They volunteer their time and wisdom, take care of others, have various interests, start businesses, and provide essential services to make our communities stronger.
Yet, when you buy a birthday card for an older person, instead of images and sayings celebrating age, you are inundated with negative stereotypes of older people as sleepy, crabby, and weak. Aging is neither bad nor ugly, yet it is often portrayed as such.
People like giving and receiving funny or clever cards, but humor doesn’t have to be mean. Often viewed as “just a joke”, we would not accept cards that joked about race or disability, so why do we allow it for age? Of course, we may joke about aging with a good friend – that’s our own business – but birthday cards are not just private messages. They are on store shelves and online. The messages that surround us, whether we believe in them or not, influence how we think.
Negative messages about aging impact our quality of life and can shorten our lifespan. When we believe these messages, we are at risk of losing the ability to do the very things we have always done. These misconceptions weaken our motivation to do things to help us have the best aging experience possible. Research shows that people with positive age beliefs, on average, live 7.5 years longer.
This is the reason York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging partnered with six local artists to reframe birthday cards poking fun at changes in appearance, abilities, and relevance as we grow older.
One card was designed by 59-year-old Latina artist Rosa Luz Catterall. She submitted an image of Choi’s fish because “it is representative of the uniqueness that we all have no matter how old we are. All of us are finding our way and creating new paths as we go through life. We are each creating a movement that’s entirely set to our own rhythm.” We could not agree more, Rosa!
The cards are for sale at https://trovestreet.com/shop/. Proceeds from sales of the cards help support the work of TroveStreet.