Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Are we finally addressing ageism in the media? I sure as hell hope so. After all, aging, like death and taxes, is inevitable.
We’re seeing an inflection point of generations bonding over shared interests. We’re seeing all generations celebrate the lives and music of icons like Tina Turner, Paul McCartney (who just turned 79) and Cher. And, of course, the Rolling Stones are ever ageless and still rocking.
I’m encouraged by the incredible success of the new HBO Max series Hacks. This funny, raw and often cringe-worthy exploration of the relationship between two women comics highlights the collaboration between a 20-something comedy writer and an aging Las Vegas comedian. The Kominsky Method is another prime example of a series that tackled aging in Hollywood and portrayed my generation as real vibrant talent and not as useless geezers, while also tackling the topics of illness, sex and death head on. (And, of course, my presence on the Rolling Stone Culture Council is proof positive that pop culture media is not just ruled by youth.)
Cross-Generational Collaboration Makes Beautiful Entertainment
The concept is not new. A few years back, Tony Bennett released Duets, a celebration of old classic tunes. Recording with collaborators way younger than his age (the album was released near his 80th birthday at the time), he breathed new life into soulful and timeless music. Steve Tyler is as well-known for “Walk This Way,” his hosting on American Idol and his Skittles ads as he is for his frontman gig in Aerosmith.
We’re starting to see a slight but welcome and meaningful change in the perception that getting older does not mean becoming less relevant.
How to ‘Dance to the Music’
The above subheading, as some of you may know, is a wink and a nod to Sly and the Family Stone. Their song “Dance to the Music” was recently sampled by will.i.am, another indication that great music doesn’t die and can be appreciated by future generations. Today’s performers are resurrecting, sampling and re-recording old classics and exposing a whole new generation to bands of earlier generations like the ’70s and ’80s.
As brand and business leaders, entrepeneurs and creatives, each of us can play a role in battling ageism in media and entertainment. We can put in the work and examine our own biases and tastes. Just because something or someone is “old” doesn’t automatically equate to irrelevancy or uselessnesss. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s immature or frivolous.
Ageism exists on both ends of the generational spectrum. Those of us who are approaching our middle years are as guilty of age-shaming as younger people. Technology has contributed to a rift between young and old. However, if we address ageism in a practical way, where we do our part and put in the work, we can bring about better cross-generational collaboration.
We people born in the days of vinyl and rotary dial phones should aim to:
• Embrace the digital era and learn new skills, therefore enhancing digital literacy.
• Stop bashing millennials and Gen Z in work and life and, instead, focus on what we can learn from them.
• Remain connected and active, listening to new music, watching new streaming media and keeping our minds and bodies active.
Younger people can look at their own tastes and behaviors and:
• Listen to and watch some of the “old classics” to learn from them.
• Check their biases at the door and pay attention to actions and language that may be perceived as ageist.
• Remember that they too will age one day and will want to be treated as vibrant and contributing members of society.
Ask yourself: What’s on your playlist? Who’s in your office? Who are your friends?
As I build my business and my social circle, I’m mindful that truly diverse and inclusive companies are not just an amalgam of different genders, sexual preferences, colors, work styles and spiritual beliefs. They represent a true cross-section of the planet.
As you form your band or cast your life or work “show,” be open to all ages. Great ideas — like rock and roll — will never die.