Belinda Hughes, writer at Cafe Belinda was one of the first people to welcome me on that lovable juggernaut Google+. Whether she’s been teaching me about the history of New Orleans, sharing helpful blogging tips or inspirational quotes, she’s been a joy to connect with. Imagine how excited I was when she agreed (with just a minimum of thumb wrestling) to teach us that age really is just a number.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson says, “60 is the new 20!” The most populous generation in history is breaking stereotypes for longevity, independence and quality of life. Rock stars in their 60s show no signs of slowing down. Septuagenarians are skydiving. Writing for TV, films and literature must illustrate Baby Boomers’ message that age is just a number, not an indicator of ability or disability.
Scriptwriting (TV and Film)
The Golden Girls was one of the first TV shows to address negative aging stereotypes. The show covered real situations of active seniors: working past retirement age; nontraditional families under the same roof; sexuality, dating and remarriage; and writing memoirs. Even Sofia remarried, opened a new business after 80 and dated Burt Reynolds, a sex symbol from her daughter’s generation.
The Fockers movie series trilogy shows that one’s lifestyle at any age is made of choices unique to the individual. You can buy an RV or a Florida island, teach Senior Sexuality classes in the gazebo, host a sexuality talk show, study flamenco in Spain and have all the sex you want.
What situations can you throw characters into to illustrate their nontraditional behaviors as they age?
Ageist consumers can impact your career. Singer-songwriter Steven Tyler, musical soul mate Joe Perry and their band Aerosmith solved that problem, starting with rappers Run DMC and the reissue of “Walk This Way.” Today, collaboration and genre-crossing, while remaining true to the band’s sound, keeps Aerosmith’s works fresh and appealing to a broad spectrum of tastes and age groups.
What writers from other genres would you consider collaborating with? Is your readership concentrated or diversified among age groups?
Literature (Novels, Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Poetry)
In the Devil’s Food Cake Murder, author Joanne Fluke attacks ageism for many groups in her series, simply by looking at how each character interacts with technology. The middle-aged main character, Hannah Swensen, is literally the only tech holdout in town, yet she’s the one who always solves the crimes. Her well-preserved mother writes Regency romance novels on a computer. Grandma Knudson, the church matriarch, has her own email on the church site and surfs Bible reference sites.
What are your senior characters doing with technology?
Turning the Lens on Myself
Food Blog: My readership is concentrated in my own middle-age demographic. I’ve begun collaborating by welcoming guest bloggers of different age groups and varieties, including registered dietitians from various countries, a cystic fibrosis teen activist and an award-winning romance author.
Cookbook: My cookbook addresses multiple age groups: Fruity Patooty Burrito for kids; Aloha Sweet Potatoes for menopause; and One Bowl Frittata for busy working middle agers and seniors.
Poetry: I recently tried my hand at scifi poetry for a change. In a positive ageism turn, one of my beta readers turned out to be a consumer of that genre for over 40 years.
Fiction: I plan to address ageism through May-December romantic pairings and the issues these characters face individually and together. Stay tuned to my G+ profile for updates.
So tell me, how is your writing currently addressing ageism?
Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, and Living Proof. Cafe Belinda, her food blog, offers dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, Kosher, vegan and vegetarian recipes, reviews and giveaways. She recently completed her first sci-fi flash fiction and micopoetry collection. In 2014 she hopes to nurture her lifelong fascination with Asian culture. You can connect with her on Facebook at her writing page, LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr.