The Frameworks Institute has released a suite of materials on Reframing Aging that shares the results from research on the perception of aging in our society and shares communication tools in order to drive a productive narrative on aging issues.

In our youth-obsessed culture, aging is primarily understood as a personal fate to avoid, not a social issue that demands a public response. How can advocates working to change the conversation on aging navigate public thinking to spark dialogue, shift perceptions, and build support for necessary policy changes?

A major new body of framing research offers important guidance for communicating about the issues facing older people, including ageism. Gaining Momentum is a collection of resources to help advocates drive a more productive narrative about how to capture the benefits of an increase in the average lifespan.

FrameWorks’ empirical approach to developing and testing frames yielded provocative insights and practical recommendations like these:

  • Aging needs to be redefined. Widespread negative assumptions about “getting old” led the public to take a fatalistic stance that there’s not much to be done about aging. 
  • A call for justice beats a plea for sympathy. A controlled experiment found that one of the most effective ways to build support for greater inclusion of older people is a reminder that a just society treats all members as equal participants.
  • Names matter. An experiment that probed associations with current terms of reference – like elderly, senior citizen, and older adults – led to some surprising findings and the recommendation that the field shift to the term older people.
  • A new metaphor dramatically shifts perceptions of aging. FrameWorks researchers found that by comparing the process of aging to building momentum, communicators open a new way to think and talk about aging—something counter to currently available cultural idioms such as “fighting” aging or the importance of “staying young.” An innovative test of how messaging can affect people’s implicit associations showed that this metaphor reduced ageist attitudes by a remarkable 30%.

Co-funded by The John A. Hartford Foundation, along with eight foundation partners, and organized by Grantmakers in Aging, the multi-year initiative has produced a toolkit, Gaining Momentum, which includes original research as well as materials that are primarily designed to build framing concepts and skills around reframing aging. The toolkit includes an Frame BriefFraming Strategies to Advance Aging and Address Ageism as Policy Issues, and a Research Report, Finding the Frame: An Empirical Approach to Reframing Aging and Ageism.

The goal of the strategy is to increase public support for policies and practices that can be advanced to support a robust, healthy, age-integrated society. Stay abreast of the conversation on Twitter at #ReframingAging. 

To read the Frame Brief, click here.

To read the Reseach Report, click here.

To view the full Gaining Momentum Toolkit, click here.

To learn about the ReFraming Aging initiative and our co-funders, click on the Grantmakers in Aging webpage here.