Down with Ageism: JHF Supports Events With Ashton Applewhite

Ashton Applewhite leads a Virtual Senior Academy course, live from the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library, March 20.

The decision to underwrite Ashton Applewhite's March 19 talk in the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series was an easy one. The author of "This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism" advocates a message that coincides with JHF's work in aging over the decades. In Ms. Applewhite's concise phrasing, "Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured but a lifelong process that unites us all."

The author, she is happy to tell you, is 66.But rather than embracing the cliché that age is just a number, Ms. Applewhite is an activist against "ageism" of all kinds. 

"Any judgment on a person based on how old they are is wrong," she said. "Ageism is when someone assumes we are too old or too young to do anything."

JHF Director of Innovation Mara Leff, MPH, introduced Ms. Applewhite's lecture, held at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Lecture Hall. "Social engagement is not merely a nice-to-have feature of senior life," she said. "Social isolation and loneliness are clearly linked to poor health outcomes, and too many seniors needlessly experience their so-called 'golden years' in isolation, whether they are healthy or frail."

Ashton Applewhite at her Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures presentation.

Ms. Leff took the occasion to mention the award-winning project that she has developed: the Virtual Senior AcademyTM. It connects seniors (or "olders," the term that Ms. Applewhite prefers) with each other over computer videoconference, for interactive, live courses on a variety of topics. Some 1,000 people are using it across the region.

Endorsing the concept, Ms. Applewhite conducted a Virtual Senior Academy class, in partnership with Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, the morning after her talk, from a room at the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill. 

With more than 20 people in the room, and another 15 tuning in from their homes or senior centers, the author shared her message on aging, and took questions and comments from the audience (both in person and virtually).

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