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  • Mel Coppola

I Will Move Mountains!

The Move Mountains theme for this year’s Eden Alternative International Conference is an apropos one, especially for me. Certainly, the fact that it will be held in Denver, Colorado makes it a great fit. But truly, it seems there are so many mountains in changing the culture of aging and the support and services people need in order to age well. The Conference Education Committee on which I served came up with quite a list of issues that felt like mountains~~ageism and ableism, workforce issues, death and dying, emotional well-being and past trauma, communication, and leadership to name just a few.

This Move Mountains theme found me a few months ago, while “bin” shopping at Goodwill (no judging~~it’s a lot of fun for people who love thrift shopping). So, while digging deep in one bin among 20 or more bins of clothes, bedding, linens, throw pillows, etc. I found a fabric wall hanging of mountains where someone had finger-painted on the bottom the words, “I Will Move Mountains!” Needless to say, it’s hanging on a wall in my office reminding me each day of my call to action. And then, knowing how this theme speaks to me, my daughters had a “Move Mountains” necklace made for me as a Christmas gift!

Rather than make New Year’s Resolutions, each year I come up with a theme--a word or two to set my intention for the year. I’ll give you one guess what my theme is for 2020.

As an anti-ageism activist, the mountain I most want to move is Ageism, which is prejudice against people due to their age. Add to ageism all the other “isms” which intersect with it, and aging well becomes a mountain many people cannot surmount. Ageism affects young and old alike as we begin receiving ageist messages in our pre-school years. A lifetime of internalizing these messages of old=loss, old=decline, old=slow, old=sick, etc. becomes a self-fulling prophecy and can take up to seven and half years off a person’s life. Conversely, having positive thoughts about growing older can add seven and a half years. This according to a past study by Yale Professor Becca Levy.

Most recently the World Health Organization asked Levy to lead a new global analysis which found that ageism negatively impacts the health of older people in 45 countries across 5 continents. According to Levy, “The injurious reach of ageism that our team documented demonstrates the need for initiatives to overcome ageism.”

Ageism is not a mountain that I can move alone. This is why I have joined fellow activists such as Ashton Applewhite, Kyrié Carpenter and Ryan Backer who created the website, Oldschool, a clearinghouse for all things anti-ageism. From books and videos to campaigns and speakers, there is an enormous amount of tools available that anyone can use to help move this mountain. There are many others in this movement, including friends from Pioneer Network and The Eden Alternative who are also passionate about and taking action to move this mountain. In fact, along with my Eden friends, Laura Beck and Jill Vitale-Aussem, I’ll be presenting at the conference on this very topic. We hope you will join us, not only at the Conference, but in the movement. With every one of us growing older, it’s a mountain we all NEED to move!

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