Wednesday, September 4, 2013

See the Person ... Not the Age

At a recent team meeting of the Organizational Advancement Group at Front Porch, our meeting leader posed a question that seemed perfect for the end of summer:  How does our summer vacation time with family and friends relate to the work that we do at Front Porch?  

There were some very interesting and thought-provoking answers.  Ross had been salmon fishing with his family on the mighty Columbia River in Oregon and spoke about patience and perseverance in all we do.  Nancy attended her daughter’s dream wedding at an old friend’s farm and was amazed at how many hands and hearts together made the planning and the event itself special and shared.  Keith reflected about watching his sons grow and conquer new skills year after year (like surfing) and how significant changes happen over time that we might not notice day to day.  Rob spoke about his family trip to Bruges and how exploring new vistas, and being open to the unexpected can create great experiences and lasting memories.


When my husband and I traveled to Scotland to research his family roots a few years ago I was immediately drawn to an advertising billboard campaign titled, ‘see the person … not the age.’

It was compelling on many levels.  First, I learned that the anti-ageism awareness campaign is funded by the Scottish government (‘to embrace the changing population’ and to help ‘foster a greater understanding of the contributions of older people to society’).  The message itself is far-reaching and dramatically clear and simple.  An almost blindingly bright white wrinkly billboard that draws your attention poses this question in small black lettering on the corner of the billboard, “Notice how being wrinkly makes you more interesting?”  Another white wrinkly billboard reads:  “Why don’t you notice people with wrinkles too?”  And then this one after the campaign begins to garner great notice, “This is proof you can have wrinkles and still do a good job.”  Each billboard has the website identification:

In reading the evaluation of the campaign (including ‘before and after’ surveys) it seems that the campaign attracted a lot of media attention in the country and consciousness was indeed raised.

Here at home I am always surprised and saddened when I hear and see ageism.  It is pervasive and saps the spirit of everyone in the community.  I groan at the tired ‘old’ jokes in the media.  Like most of us at Front Porch I see the beauty and uniqueness of individuals of advanced age.  They are champions of life to me. Most have extraordinary stories to tell.  Many are bold and fearless in their later years and have much to teach the rest of us who impatiently dismiss the extraordinary possibilities of later life. 

I love the Scottish campaign and its simple and clear message.  It is a great challenge to all of us to ‘See the Person … Not the Age.’ 

-- Lee Ratta