Age-Friendly Sarasota County, Florida – AARP

Launched in 2017, the event is a series of discussions designed to “encourage thought leadership, change minds, and instigate action by providing a platform for discourse on compelling age-related issues.” 

“I’m a big advocate for older adults and combatting ageism,” says Erin McLeod, president/CEO of Senior Friendship Centers, which helps host the convention. “Ageism is pervasive in our society, from greeting cards, people using the term ‘senior moment,’ the evil villains in kids’ movies who are often depicted as old crones. We have an entire industry devoted to anti-aging because people don’t view aging as something that is respected and revered.”

Black agrees: “We know ageism is a serious scourge throughout the world. It’s one of the isms that still exist. When we did our focus groups and I asked about ageism, nobody said anything. But when we talked about transportation, we heard lots of stereotypes and prejudice about older drivers.”

(Because driving skills often do diminish as drivers age, the Sarasota action plan calls for the creation of more transportation options for older residents.)

“Age-friendly communities are countering ageism by changing the conversation about aging,” says Black. “The conversation shifts when we address age-friendly as livability for people at all ages and abilities. We are really talking about living fully, and having full access and participation in community life, which gets people to think more positively. They’re excited about it and want to do what they need to do to make their lives and their community better. That’s what’s inspirational to me.”

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