Ageist Harm

Stella Fosse’s most recent blog posting, “First Do No Ageist Harm,”  examines the underlying assumptions of a study on brain health in which she participated because she wanted to contribute to research that would help develop treatments for brain disorders.  In her lucid account, she reports that many of the questions came from underlying assumptions she considers ageist–assuming decline, for example. There were no questions about the positive aspects of aging, suggesting there was no financial incentive similar to that of drug companies seeking cures. I had recently revisited Ursula K. Le Guin’s collection of short blog-like pieces written in her eighties and nineties, entitled No Time to Spare in which she begins by referencing a questionnaire she received from Harvard, sent in advance of the sixtieth reunion of her 1951 graduating class. Her response to a question about what she does in her spare time, like the questions Fosse mentions, reveals the underlying ageism of the questions.  I suggest you read all four entries in the opening section, “Going Over Eighty.” I love her response that she has no spare time because her time has always “been occupied by living.”

Next, I plan to follow up on Fosse’s recommendation of Becca Levy’s book,  Breaking the Age Code:  How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and How Well You Live Like LeGuin, I bristle when someone claims I don’t look my age, sharing her sense that we earned our wrinkles and age spots in over eighty years and we don’t want them to deny our experience of living. 

Interview in the Mills Quarterly

I am really pleased with this wonderful article about “The Book of Old Ladies” & my spring class Coming to Age with Mills students and elders from the Downtown Oakland Senior Center. I love its inclusion of so many Mills voices!

A Future for Old Women

Professor Emerita Ruth Saxton offers alternate visions for “coming to age” in The Book of Old Ladies
By Dawn Cunningham ‘85

In her new book, Professor Emerita Ruth Saxton delves into the complex fictional worlds (and goes beyond the stereotypes) of elderly women.

Interview with Christine Hyung-Oak Lee in “The Rumpus”

“The more I read, the more I appreciate stories in which old ladies not only survive the huge losses of their lives, such as divorce, death of a spouse, serious illness, forced retirement, or alienation from adult children, but discover undeveloped parts of themselves, sometimes defy limiting conventions and habits that no longer serve them well. Stories of satisfying lives after loss lift my spirits and affirm what I have observed not only personally but also in life writing—in journals, diaries, biographies, and memoirs”

Interview with Christine Hyung-Oak Lee in “The Rumpus”

Book Q & A with Deborah Kalb

Q: You write that as you grew older, “I began to look for plots that might help me map a possible future beyond the familiar fairy tale where the old woman is stereotyped as either the wicked witch or the fairy godmother.” How did you eventually decide to write this book?
A: I have always looked to fiction by women writers to offer models of ways of being that allowed me to imagine myself and others in new ways.

Click to Read the Interview

In which I am invited to Guest Blog

I was invited to Guest Blog for “Read Her Like An Open Book”As I approached my sixtieth birthday, I began to notice that in the books I included on the syllabus for my popular course “Contemporary Fiction by Women,” none of the protagonists were anywhere near my age. Instead, women my age were secondary characters, mothers or grandmothers, usually included only because of their importance to the central character, a marriageable daughter or even a young girl. The older woman might be described in considerable detail, but only from the outside, through a younger person’s perspective. I was troubled by the stereotypes that seemed to categorize her as either wicked witch or fairy godmother.

Read the Blog Here

Thank you Bill Wolfe for the invitation!