Tuesday, January 7, 2020

This Chair Rocks: Book Review

Published 15 March 2016.
Ashton Applewhite is a force to be reckoned with.

Author, speaker, and advocate, Applewhite has become renown over the last few years as a significant critic of ageism.

However, she does not merely tear down ageist policies, programs, policies, and attitudes.

Applewhite also describes in rich detail the ways age contains strength, wisdom, sexuality, fun, and creativity.

I have observed Applewhite's work over the last several years by watching her TedTalk, reading her blog, reading several interviews in major magazines and news outlets, following her on Twitter, and even meeting her after hearing her give a keynote address.

I finally sat down to read her book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

The basic structure of her book follows this pattern: She identifies an area of age bias (brain, body, sex, work, etc.) Then she cites several experts who have done work to expose this ageism. Finally, she gives readers specific action they can take to transform assumptions, bias, language, policies, and practices that enforce ageism.

If you want to view the Table of Contents and a slightly different review, 

She notes that everyone suffers from ageism. Strictly speaking, holding stereotypes based on age affects people from every generation. Also, stoking cross-generational warfare puts people in a no-win situation and distracts the populous from examining how those in power exploit people across their lifespans. "Pitting the generations against each other also obscures the key fact that income inequality does not dnate by age" (p. 31).

Applewhite has clearly done her homework. She cites a number of sources, ranging from evidence-based research to expert opinion. Some of her sources include organizations such as AARP, The Administration on Aging, the Pew Research Center as well as individual authors such as Robert Butler, Atul Guwande, Joyce Carol Oats, Paula Span, Susan Sontag, and Bill Thomas. However, her own voice shines through with the others serving more as "backing vocals."

While she does convey a lot of warmth, her focus is on the practical, the political.

Applewhite and KDA
in August 2018
"Becoming an Old Person in Training is a political act, because it derails this shame and self-loathing. It undoes the 'otherness' that powers ageism (and racism, and nationalism). It makes room for empathy and action" (p. 64).

Applewhite does a lot to paint the second half of life as one rich with strengths and opportunities. Reading her books was invigorating and inspiring.

And I was delighted to meet her in person during the 2018 Mid-American Institute on Aging and Wellness.  She's doing great work on ageism as well as some intersecting issues such as poverty, race, ability, and gender.


Books on Aging 

2018 MAIA Preview