STOPageism with Patrick Heesen.
At Guild Living, we noticed ageism was still very ingrained in society, so we decided to do something about it. That’s why we founded STOPageism. We wanted to do our part and to make this world a little better one step at a time.
To learn more about STOPageism, how it all began, why we do it, and what our plans are for the future, we spoke to Patrick Heesen, Marketing Director at Guild Living.
Why did Guild Living begin the STOPageism campaign?
We used to use a phrase, ‘individually we’re great, but together we’re extraordinary’. In the spirit of that, we wanted to start a movement based on our objective of changing perspectives of ageing and working together to make a change. As we started to brainstorm about what we could do and how people really change things, we realised that social change comes through a movement, or campaign. As we discussed the concept of starting a campaign more and more, we also noticed that there were a lot of great organisations out there working to end ageism, but there wasn’t a place for them to unite on one platform. So that’s exactly what we built – one place where we can ask for change.
When we were thinking about what we wanted to call it, we thought about how harmful discrimination can be to people. That’s when we came up with the name ‘STOPageism’. We will all face ageism at some point or another. No matter what age we are now, we all grow older and at some point, will probably experience ageism. If we can use STOPageism to move the dial in the right direction to stop ageism, that would be a massive success.
What are some of the most important goals you would like to achieve with STOPageism?
Our overall goal is to change society’s perception of ageing to a positive one and to stop age discrimination. This is not something you can do in an instant, but something you need to break into steps. And that’s what we’ve done. Together with our partners, we have agreed on specific goals for STOPageism. One of the most impactful goals we are looking to achieve right now is to add ‘age’ as a protected characteristic in the Editor’s Code. This would prevent the media from using age-based discrimination. The media is so powerful due to the way they write about people. They set the tone for how people perceive age and ageism. I don’t want to blame the media, but they need to play their role in making a positive change. So, for me, that’s an important goal for us to achieve. If we can achieve that goal and hold the media accountable, that will play a big part in changing people’s perceptions.
What challenges do you think STOPageism will have in the next 5 years?
Speed. Speed is crucial. But we need to be realistic about how much we can accomplish in a certain amount of time. Things always take longer than you think. Keeping up the speed and momentum is going to be the hardest part. Another challenge will be keeping the partners involved and excited about helping us make a change. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
What are some aspirations you have for STOPageism?
Right now, we are focused on ageism in the UK. But we often think about how we can scale this into a European platform. How could we do that, or how could we find people who can do that for us? Because we cannot do it all. And we need somebody who knows the market. This is one of the aspirations we have for STOPageism over the next few months and years.
Why do you think ageism is still prevalent in our society?
As long as we see a group of people as not adding value to society and as a burden on society, we will still have an issue. This is what we are facing right now in ageism. The challenge is in changing the perception to see people as adding value, no matter the age. When you start to involve people more in society, regardless of their age, that is the beginning of the curve to changing age perceptions. And this is the same for people of all ages – older people, but also kids for example. There can be ageism in many different age groups. Whilst there are differences between generations, there is nothing wrong with generational differences. But you must remember to respect one another and each other’s views. I think that is one of the reasons why ageism is still prevalent. There are also many other areas of ageism that are ingrained in society. For example, we need to stop with the silly jokes and ageist birthday cards. It is things like that that are harmful to people without people realising. We have to stop the ageism that is ingrained in our everyday lives.
If you could tell the STOPageism partners anything, what would it be?
If I could tell them one thing, it would be to ask that they stay involved and bear with us. This is not a process of six months. It’s probably more of a process of 60 years. We have plans to turn STOPageism into its own entity. It is already exciting to see how many partners have joined. We are still learning how to manage it well. We also need a bit of luck. We had plans to publish a press release in a big-name national newspaper, and if that had gone through like it was supposed to, we would be having a different conversation right now. Ultimately, they didn’t publish the press release, and we lost valuable time waiting on that. And now we must start the process over again. But that is just a part of the deal with the media and it’s a part of the learning curve.
What do you think is important for STOPageism to be successful?
We need to get something changed and we need to deliver on what we promised. I think we have a very solid and liberal plan. Our strategy was determined by very clever people. We just need to focus on delivering. Let’s be honest, we’re all learning in this. I’ve never campaigned for something like this, but here we are, running an organisation with almost 60 influential partners across the UK. That is amazing. But we just need to stay focused to deliver what we set out to achieve. We will get there, but it will take time.
Sometimes people are often inspired by certain areas of ageism and how it affects people in different ways. Is there a certain area of ageism that you are most passionate about?
For me personally, I’m inspired by incredible sports achievements because it shows that you don’t have to be young to achieve these things. When I see an 85-year-old completing a marathon, it just proves that the perceptions are wrong. I think that is the main thing I like – when people achieve amazing things no matter the age. Whether that is in sports, or somebody starting a company that changes the world. They beat the stereotype and I find that inspiring.
How long do you think it will take to make a real difference in ending ageism?
I think it will take three to five years to make a difference, but more like 50 to 60 years to ‘end ageism’. It will take maybe two generations to completely change the perceptions. But to start making an impact, we can think about the changes we can make in three to five years. For example, when the Editor’s Code is changed, it still doesn’t change anything in society. We’d just be adding 3 letters to the Editor’s Code – ‘A. G. E.’. But it will make a difference over time. Because it will hold people accountable.
Any final comments or thoughts?
We have started something with a lot of amazing organisations who have joined to become a single force against ageism. But bear with us. As one unit we can work together, and I believe can slowly achieve some incredible goals. We want this to be big, so we are waiting on a nationwide press release. We know this is worthy of that attention. That takes time, more time than I would have anticipated. And so, it is important that people remain patient with us as we puzzle out what to do. But slowly, we will get there. So, that’s why I say, ‘bear with us’. We know our plan is solid and the commitment from partners is there.