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Reframing Aging Facilitators Share Insights, Experiences from the Field

For Karen Brown, director of the Age-Friendly Work Place Initiative for Changing the Narrative in Colorado, the key takeaways from her training as a Reframing Aging facilitator can be summed up by remaining “positive, patient, and persistent.”

For Claire Côté, a field representative with the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services, it can be boiled down to “be adaptable and be open.”

And for Rebecca Sky, executive director of the New Hampshire State Commission on Aging, it comes down to incorporating reframing aging principles and language in everything from policy recommendation letters to the governor and legislature to the commission’s strategic planning process.

The three facilitators shared their experiences and insights during a November webinar, Reframing Aging: Reports from the Field.

‘Positive, Patient, and Persistent’

Brown illustrated her mantra of “positive, patient, and persistent” by recounting the effort it took to coordinate a meeting with an organization whose target audiences included policymakers, educators, career counselors and employers.

“I'll make a really long story short,” Brown said. “It probably took me 24 emails to coordinate a meeting and actually secure a presentation. And that was over a five-month time period.”

In the end, it was all worth it. “We had 38 people register and about 27 participate,” she said. “But it turned out very, very well. So my tenacity and persistence did pay off. … I really do believe that through every presentation that we do, whether it’s one person, 10 people or 100 people, it will bring us one step closer to ending ageism.”

Organize, Organize, Organize

Côté, who had been in her new position with the State of Connecticut for only a few months when she was trained as a facilitator in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic surged in the United States, offered several tips for gaining opportunities to get Reframing Aging messaging in front of those who need to hear it. Among her advice was:

  • Get buy-in from leadership and colleagues.
  • Recognize your own “swamp,” or challenges you face in your work.
  • Organize, Organize, Organize.
  • Look for opportunities to work with captive audiences.
  • Don’t overwhelm people.
  • Embrace flexibility and patience.
  • Rearrange presentations to be reasonable for yourself and your audience.
  • Keep your presentation relevant.
  • Keep an open mind.

Positively Affecting Policies and Programs

Sky was hired as the first executive director of the newly created New Hampshire State Commission on Aging on the last day of January 2020. “In early March, I was fortunate enough to attend Reframing Aging Initiative’s facilitators training, which was just so timely. As you know, within a few weeks, the onset of the impacts of COVID would hit, and we had our first stay-at-home order. So there we were. What were we to do? How do we meet and how do we get some early wins? We also wanted to set ourselves up for future success with a meaningful strategic planning process.”

Sky quickly applied what she had learned from her Reframing Aging training in a letter the commission wrote to the governor’s economic reopening task force, which was charged with setting guidance for the state and private sector on how to safely reopen New Hampshire’s economy.

The letter noted that older adults “play an outsize role in our economy, given the proportionate size they are in our population.” And Sky pointed to one sentence that she particularly feels represents how to use the Reframing Aging messaging to craft powerful and successful arguments: “Older adults need to be included in the social and economic recovery in ways that are responsive to their increased risk of negative outcomes, as well as their right to participate in society as safely as possible.”

Reframing Aging principles also were infused in the commission’s strategic planning process, including its vision, mission, and values statements, Sky said.

“We needed to be sure our vision and mission for our future was ultimately framed to enable us to have positive impact on policies and programs,” she said.

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The Reframing Aging Initiative is a long-term social change endeavor designed to improve the public’s understanding of what aging means and the many ways that older people contribute to our society. This greater understanding will counter ageism and guide our nation’s approach to ensuring supportive policies and programs for us all as we move through the life course.

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