Eight of the nation’s leading aging-focused organizations have formed an unprecedented partnership to create a better public understanding of older adults’ needs and contributions to society — and subsequently to improve the lives of all people as they age.

This coalition includes AARP, the American Federation for Aging Research, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Society on Aging, The Gerontological Society of America, Grantmakers in Aging, the National Council on Aging, and the National Hispanic Council on Aging. Together they represent and have direct access to millions of older adults and thousands of individuals working in aging-related professions.

Working collaboratively with the FrameWorks Institute, the eight organizations will address public perceptions of older adults: who they are, what issues affect them, how they contribute to our society, and how society can best integrate their needs and contributions. The project is managed by Laura Robbins of Laura A. Robbins Consulting, LLC.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people age 65 and older made up 14.1 percent of the American population in 2013; this figure is expected to rise to 21 percent by 2040. In developing the new initiative, the leaders of the involved organizations recognized that unless the public develops a more accurate understanding of today’s older adults, it will continue to be difficult to secure the systems, human capital, and financial resources needed by the fastest-growing age segment of the population.

Funding for the initiative has been provided by AARP, Archstone Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Endowment for Health, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The John A. Hartford Foundation, The Retirement Research Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, and The SCAN Foundation.

Research, Tools, and Applications

Gaining Momentum: A Communications Toolkit (2017). This collection of research and resources equip advocates in the aging services sector to change perceptions about what it means for America to get older.

Finding the Frame: An Empirical Approach to Reframing Aging and Ageism (2017). This report details several interrelated studies into how to reframe aging. Recommendations include two complementary narratives shown to improve attitudes toward aging and to boost understanding of the structural and systemic changes needed to capture the longevity dividend.

Frame Brief: Framing Strategies to Advance Aging and Address Ageism as Policy Issues (2017). This summary of major findings and recommendations offers a brief, lively guide to an evidence-based approach to reframing aging.

Aging, Agency, and Attribution of Responsibility: Shifting Public Discourse about Older Adults (2015) (PDF)What stories do people have access to when they think about aging? This Media Content and Field Frame Analysis compares media and advocacy organizations’ narratives about aging and older adults. It identifies six narratives that are regularly disseminated: the Throwaway Generation, Vibrant Seniors, Independent Seniors, Aging Workers, Demographic Crisis and Government Actions.  The report compares differences in how advocate and media professionals tell each of these narratives and assesses the impacts of these stories on public thinking about aging. A central finding of this report is that most information about aging in both media and advocacy is not organized as complete narratives, making these stories less likely to deepen public understanding. How to fill holes in promising narratives, and avoid those that undermine understanding are addressed in the report’s conclusion. 

Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America (2015) (PDF). This report lays the groundwork for a larger effort to develop a new, evidence-based narrative around the process of aging in our country and the needs and contributions of older adults. By comparing experts' views to those of average Americans, the report details a set of communications challenges to efforts to elevate public support for policies and programs that promote the well-being of older adults. Key among these is the public’s view of aging as a decidedly negative and deterministic process, as well as its overall fatalism about our collective ability to find solutions to the challenges of an aging population. The report concludes with initial strategic recommendations for addressing these communications challenges.

Reframing Aging: Seeing What You're Up Against and Finding a Way Forward (2015): In the following webinar, Nat Kendall-Taylor and Moira O’Neil of the FrameWorks Institute review results from the first phase of FrameWorks’ research on aging and older adults. They discuss results and recommendations that emerge from expert interviews and cultural models interviews with members of the general public, as well as an analysis of the ways that the media and organizations working on aging issues frame topics related to aging and older adults. The webinar concludes with a brief discussion of next steps for the larger Reframing Aging project. 

We encourage you to use and share these findings. The research was made possible by the strength of cooperation across organizations. When you refer to the research, we ask that you recognize this by including the following: The research was developed by a collaborative of the following eight national aging organizations: AARP, the American Federation for Aging Research, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Society on Aging, Grantmakers in Aging, the Gerontological Society of America, the National Council on Aging and the National Hispanic Council on Aging.  It was supported by grants from: AARP,  The Atlantic Philanthropies, Rose Community Foundation, The Retirement Research Foundation, The John A. Hartford Foundation, The Archstone Foundation and The Fan Fox/Leslie R. Samuels Foundation. The FrameWorks Institute conducted the research. 


Generations: The Pernicious Problem of Ageism (2015)The following issue of Generations, published by the American Society on Aging, is based on FrameWorks work on Reframing Aging. In this issue of the journal, you can read more about the Reframing Aging project, its finding and can learn, more generally, about the importance of strategic communication and framing in addressing the pressing issue of ageism in America. The journal can be accessed here.

FrameWorks Institute