Most images of older women in the U.S. media are based on stereotypes about older adults. The “Raging Grannies” are shattering those stereotypes.
The Raging Grannies are activists who promote peace, justice, social and economic equality through song and humor. Attendees at the convention session Aging and Raging Well Women, Art, and Activism were lucky to see them in action, singing on such topics as double standards for women and men related to aging and climate change.
These women are not alone in their efforts to fight stereotypes about older women. Mary Gergen described her research, which finds that older women feel invisible as they age, disappearing at work and in public. “The irony,” Gergen said, “is that at the same time one becomes invisible, she is also experiencing her most wise and self-fulfilled time of life.”
Gergen commented on the many ways that ageism affects older women, sharing her own experiences being called “honey” by shopkeepers. Ageism can also include jokes about older adults and assumptions that one is no longer interested in (or capable of) being actively engaged in work or hobbies. Stereotypes about older adults are so pervasive that many older women have internalized ageism — some are reluctant to visit community centers or move into assisted living facilities because they don’t want to spend time with people who are “old.”
Just like other forms of bias, it is important for psychologists to speak out against ageism and resist stereotypes about older adults. “Let’s be celebratory and joyful while we attack barriers related to ageism,” said Maureen McHugh of APA’s Div. 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women).