Michelle and Shanuki's project tackles ageism and celebrates the positives of getting older in their instagram project. Peppered with photographs and interviews, this project showcases people in all stages of life and showcases the reality of aging, both positive and negative, through the words of the participants.
Check out their project on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thenewoldseries/
The New Old – A Project to Re-Define Aging
By: Michelle & Shanuki Goonasekera
What does “being old” mean to you? Most of us would think of old age as a slowdown; constant forgetfulness, the need for canes or wheelchairs, dependence on others, and a deterioration in health. Negative messages about aging are prevalent in all aspects of our lives, from our everyday language to the workplace. Aging is a natural lifelong process, but society continually sees it as a problem that should be fixed. We all want to grow old, but not BE old.
The truth is, aging is not ALL downhill, yet we are constantly reminded that it is. Where is the 65-year-old woman who continues to bring value and talent to her organization? Where is the 75-year-old man who still runs every day and exercises? Where is the 85 year-old-woman who continues to pursue her passions every day? If we don’t see these people in the media, we will never confront our fears about aging.
It’s a little ironic – two young people starting a project to raise awareness of ageism against older adults – despite knowing very little about what it’s like to be old. But the truth is, ageism affects us all – young and old. Not only do these negative messages make life less enjoyable for older adults, but it also drastically affects how we ALL age.
We created the New Old (@thenewoldseries on Instagram) to empower each other to re-evaluate our myths and beliefs about late-life to create an age-friendly society. We do this by sharing photos and accompanying narratives of real people across the lifespan that reflect their thoughts about growing old – both the good and the bad. There have been eye-opening stories of loss, resilience, hope and joy to normalize that there is no right way to grow old. We want these stories to spark a crucial and honest conversation about aging in our society.
One of the best parts of this project was meeting people of various backgrounds and ages that we wouldn’t have otherwise interacted with in our normal social circles. Similarly, the topic of aging is a taboo subject, so creating a space to talk about aging with all its trials and triumphs opened our eyes to common thoughts and perspectives we all shared. Coming into this project, we both had held aging stereotypes and biases, so we were learning alongside our audience. The more people that we spoke to, the more insight we gained, and the more we realized that aging has been demonized to be something we should all avoid, when it is a natural and inevitable part of our lives – if we’re lucky.
Currently, we are recruiting our participants in Edmonton and we plan to expand our geographical region of interest to other cities, provinces and eventually, countries. We hope to highlight that ageism is not simply an issue that affects the Western world, instead, it is deeply rooted in all societies in varying degrees, given how increasingly globalized our world is becoming. Additionally, we are creating a series of short documentaries to delve deeper into some of the psychological, biological and sociological aspects of aging.
We often speak about how diverse workplaces, communities and societies make us stronger and allow for unique problem-solving. An important component of diversity that is not often addressed is age. We hope our project will showcase the talent and expertise that older adults possess.
Please follow our Instagram page @thenewoldseries to learn about the incredible perspectives and lives of our participants. Engage with our content by commenting your own reactions and thoughts to the stories, liking the posts, and sharing our initiative with others. Our goal with our Instagram page is to get people to confront their own discomfort of aging by showcasing real stories of real people, encapsulating the good, and the bad, of growing old.
OSP's Youth Diversity and Awareness program will connect you to learning and volunteer opportunities, like minded peers, community mentors, and provide support for you to bring a Diversity and Awareness initiative to your own community. We are always looking for committed participants to become part of our learning community!