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The Inter-generational Factor: Age Esteem

March 17th, 2010

Training wth Arda1jpg

The Inter-generational Effect with Bonnie Fatio (l) and Arda Aghazarian (r)

CSW 2010: All about the Inter-generational Factor

by World YWCA Communications Intern Anandi Smith

CSW 2010 Age Esteem and World YWCA

Walking into the Global Action on Aging Office on March 2, 2010 I get a warm greeting from the facilitators Bonnie Fatio and Arda Aghazarian. The office space is beautiful with silk hangings on the wall and large windows. From the front you can see a spectacular view of the UN building and the river.

Women of all ages file in and there appears to be a large number of women from World YWCA CSW 2010 delegation wearing the infamous fuchsia pink scarves. Swiss chocolates, which people make, an immediate dive for is passed around as people start to settle in their seats.

Bonnie Fatio, Age Esteem founder and author introduces the meeting. She wants to create an atmosphere where “age and aging are celebrated”. She tells us that ‘age esteem’ is where she wants to make her dream a reality and wants to encourage and portray a positive attitude towards ageing.

Arda Aghazarian,YWCA in Palestine staff and World YWCA Board member, introduces herself and asks us about our thoughts on age esteem. Numerous people respond and there seems to be a mutual agreement that in society today we are not encouraged to celebrate getting older. In the media for example we seem to be constantly bombarded with products and images to keep us young. Sarah Davies comments that there are certain expectations around age and if we do not abide by them people can be quick to judge. Doris Salah says “the word esteem, you don’t loose your esteem when you grow.”

Bonnie Fatio says “ the relationship to age that we carry follows us everywhere”, negative attitudes such as “old is bad and youth is dynamic” are not healthy. The facilitators tell us that they all want us to participate in an exercise, which will be measured in a symbolic way. Bonnie and Arda stand up at the front of the room and tell us to look at them hypothetically. We are told to raise our right or left hands when different words are used to describe woman. We are told to close our eyes, words such as ‘healthy, intelligent, beautiful wise’ come up and people point in different directions. What we find through this exercise is that you really have to be quite judgmental and ageist when deciding who to choose. Most of the words called out suit both women so people find themselves pointing in both directions. Through the exercise we find that there is a hidden ageism bias in all of us.

The conversation goes onto human rights and how dignity is a part of inner worth. Bonnie asks us how we should grow as leaders and that we should include young women. She says that one should not wipe out the other. Almost on cue Mildred Persinger walks in. (Now 92, Mildred has been a leader of women’s rights for several generations.)  Bonnie goes on to say that a sign of leadership is not passing the torch on but starting a flame that the younger generations can carry for themselves and light others. Getting older should be celebrated.

We then move off into pairs for another exercise and discuss what we gain from either older or younger women. My partner is Bonnie, she describes to me that “ young people have a different energy, they go by a different pace, vocabulary and are a constant learning experience. I tell her that I can learn a lot from older women they have been through all the things I am going through now and I can learn from them.

The thoughts that we are left with at the end of the seminar are how we can work with the older generation and as women we are not pushing a transition of new leaders. We are expected to evaluate and judge people ages but we need to look at it positively. Bonnie gives us a weekly challenge, which is to keep a personal talk diary for one week. It is to look at what we are saying through our mouths and thoughts and to turn our negative thoughts into positive ones. At the end of the session there are relaxed and happy faces all around. I think that the group has learned a lot from the exercises and will not be so quick to judge someone based on their age group and celebrate growing old. I know I will.

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