Creating Community Conversations

Creating Community Conversations

In November, I applied for an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project. I wanted to bring groups together around a common topic as a way to address stereotypes based on age. I did get an interview and drove Portland (about three hours north from where I live) to participate. The three younger women who conducted the interview were great. A couple of weeks later, I learned my project proposal wasn’t selected. Nonetheless, the experience was very positive. I also realized I could develop my own conversation projects.

Age Stereotyping Conversation

Last night I spoke to a community group of older women (mostly my age) about stereotyping and discrimination related to aging. I asked what they thought we could do to change the narrative on aging. Some of the women shared their own stories about experiencing ageist remarks. Then one said that sometimes she wanted to be treated with extra courtesy such as when someone offered to hoist her luggage up above her head on an airliner. Others shared similar experiences.  Another woman pointed out that sometimes it was hard to decide whether a comment or action was ageist or just an attempt to be courteous. I don’t know that we came up with any solutions, but it was certainly a thought-provoking discussion.

Sharing Perspectives, Building Community

  Tonight, my husband and I opened our home to about a dozen of our retired neighbors to discuss a school bond issue. We decided to get people together tonight because two years ago, a school bond failed and became a contentious issue in our community. Some of the younger community members blamed the “greedy old people” for its failure. This evening, we invited the school superintendent, also a neighbor, to help us understand why the school was asking for a bond that many of our neighbors didn’t think they could afford. When we actually listened to what the superintendent had to say, we gained a new understanding of our schools and the need for support. At the same time, our neighbors had an opportunity to ask questions and to share their own concerns with the superintendent. Even though many of us felt the bond measure was more than we could afford, we all gained some additional perspectives. One neighbor suggested that we find ways to bring younger and older community members together to talk about the school bond. I couldn’t agree more – if we want to bring our community together, it is important to understand and respect different perspectives; that’s how we can start breaking down barriers.  

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