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We ❤ Aging—Anti-Ageism Training Coming Soon …

cartoon people gathered, with one woman standing on a box that says "we heart aging."

Age Friendly Seattle is thrilled to be launching a new series of training modules called “We ❤ Aging: Re-Imagining Aging,” available this month to all City of Seattle employees.

What is ageism and why do we need training?
The World Health Organization defines ageism as referring to “the stereotypes—how we think, prejudices—how we feel, and discrimination—how we act, towards others, or oneself, based on age.” Our populations are aging, both in the US and around the world. In the Puget Sound region, our population aged 75+ is predicted to increase by 175 percent between 2020 and 2040.

The United Nations has declared this to be the Decade of Healthy Ageing, calling on communities around the world to become more age friendly. Ageism cost $63 billion on health care spending in one year. Ageism robs our ability to look forward to aging and deprives people of intergenerational communities.

The good news is: We can change this!

Timeline for development
The City of Seattle joined the age-friendly mission back in 2016, when we launched our own initiative. The idea for anti-ageist training was born from those initial community discussions, and we are excited to bring that great idea to fruition!

In 2021, we convened thought partners to determine content topics and outline. Last year, we hired a vendor specializing in curriculum development and began production, and in early 2023, we invited input from key partners, including AAA Advisory Council, the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders, the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) Change Team, and other aging and disability professionals at HSD. This month brings us to the final stages of completing the trainings and loading them into the City’s learning management system (Cornerstone) to roll-out to all City of Seattle employees.

Overview of training

Click on the image above for a sneak peek at one anti-ageism video, which highlights the reality of our own biases. Things may not always be as they seem.

Age Friendly Seattle’s anti-ageist training was always intended to be a multi-phased project—Phase 1 starting with our own selves, as City of Seattle staff, taking a critical view of our own mindsets and thinking around aging. Based on lessons learned from our internal roll-out of the training, the plan for Phase 2 is to adapt the training offerings for external audiences and for the community.

Research has demonstrated that children as young as three years old are aware of aging stereotypes, and these stereotypes and myths are also prevalent in media all around us (think of all those negative birthday cards in the card aisle at the supermarket). This training will lay the groundwork for increased awareness of aging and ageism, give us the tools to name it when we see it, start to work to counteract it in ourselves and others, and consider how we might implement strategies in our own work and areas of expertise.


The training comprises three modules, which will be foundational for City of Seattle staff as we learn more about the impacts of ageism on the older adults we serve—and those we love in our own lives. With the help of our curriculum development partner, the learning progression invites us to explore our own biases, the what and why of aging and ageism, with a recognition of the compounding impacts and harms of ageism over time, especially when combined with other ‘isms’, such as racism and ableism.

We learn how our own mindsets and view of aging can impact our own future well-being … really! Recent research shows that individuals with positive mindsets around aging live 7.5 years longer than those without positive mindsets around aging.

Click on the image above to view one of our Voices of Older Adults stories. This clip eloquently highlights how our own ageist thinking and bias can become internalized, and the importance of social connections to our own well-being, especially as we age.

A fun part of the training included inviting colleagues across departments to share their own or their family members’ personal stories of aging. We captured a wide range of voices and were overwhelmed by the response. Our training concludes with tips and strategies for our professional and personal lives, and how to be anti-ageist and become an advocate for ourselves and others. We also include a curated list of resources to support further learning and discovery.

Next steps

Initially, trainings will be available on the City’s internal learning management system for staff. Age Friendly Seattle is excited to make available discussion toolkits for debriefing the trainings in groups, and will host small, facilitated discussions about how to apply the concepts in our everyday work.

As we look ahead to another iteration of training for the community, we will keep the feedback loop alive and keep lessons learned in mind. Since the trainings will not be mandatory, we look forward to building engagement with the launch, and helping colleagues in a variety of roles see how aging is something that touches us all—we are all doing it, every day!—and that it is also something that can unite us, too.

We hope the trainings will spark conversations among co-workers, friends, and family members about how to spot age-related bias in ourselves and the media around us, how to include an age-friendly lens in our own work in city government and in communities, and how to become part of the worldwide movement to change the way we think about aging.

Look out for future iterations of anti-ageism training for use in community, and use Age Friendly Seattle as a resource. E-mail to join the movement to end ageism.

Meg WoolfContributor Meg Woolf is an Age Friendly Seattle program coordinator.



Posted in Ageism