Artists Create Age-Positive Birthday Cards as Part of Changing the Narrative’s Anti-Ageism Campaign
DENVER – Frustrated by the racks of birthday card options that mock older adults as weak, deaf, forgetful and crabby, the Colorado-based anti-ageism group Changing the Narrative is making birthday card shopping empowering and uplifting, producing ”age-positive” cards that celebrate aging and honor the recipients.
A contest attracting submissions from professional greeting card designers from around the country resulted in 10 winning birthday cards—all designed by women, several by women of color— to be part of a collection of age-positive cards. The artists are from cities and states across the country, including San Diego, CA, Seattle, WA, St. Paul, MN, and Fort Collins, CO.
The original contest that accepted applications only from Colorado-based general artists was wildly successful, with the birthday cards selling quickly to buyers around the country. As a result, and due to popular demand, Changing the Narrative decided to expand the contest nationally.
“We chose the artists based on their creative talents and their enthusiasm to join the movement to end ageism,” said Janine Vanderburg, Director of Changing the Narrative. “We invited experienced, professional, and successful greeting card designers to participate in the contest. The wonderfully diverse designs share one thing: a message that age is something to celebrate.”
“Ageism harms all of us,” said Melissa Mika of Fort Collins. “If my art can help shift the perspective of any marginalized group, then I feel like I’m doing the work I was set out to do!”
Changing the Narrative challenges the notion perpetuated in many traditional birthday cards that we should feel bad about aging and that getting older is all about decline, deterioration, and depression. In an effort to be humorous, some of the cards portray older adults as bench-sitting curmudgeons, boozy women who can’t remember what they just said, flatulent grandparents, or lecherous old men, all reflecting and reinforcing the negative stereotypes about getting older.
But ageism isn’t funny, it’s harmful. A recent survey found that 93% of older adults in the U.S. experience ageism, and research by Dr. Becca Levy of the Yale School of Public Health shows that having negative beliefs about aging affects our physical and mental health, increases the likelihood of developing dementia, and decreases our life span.
Sarah Schwartz, AKA The Paper Nerd, editor-in-chief of Stationery Trends Magazine said, “‘Over the hill’ cards have been the norm and that concept wasn’t challenged until recently. The conversation is changing. But cultural changes take a while. The momentum is building. Cards are micro-conversations. With one card and one person, you can evolve your perspective.”
For Vanderburg, that’s the point. She continued, “Our goal at Changing the Narrative is to not only raise awareness and understanding of ageism but also to make a real-world difference. We want to change how people think, talk, and act about aging and ageism; we want to change the messages we hear in our workplaces, in our doctors’ offices, and in our everyday lives; and we want to change the stories we tell about ourselves as we age. Sharing “happy birthday” messages that make us smile or laugh in celebration of aging instead of mocking older people is an important step in changing the stories that our culture feeds us about getting older.”
Changing the Narrative is a U.S.-based campaign changing the way people think, talk and act about aging and ageism through evidence-based strategies, strategic communications and innovative public campaigns. Our end game? To end ageism, together.