Better Birthdays! campaign aims to embrace growing older with fewer ageist designs
A call for kinder cards has come from a group looking to reduce the ageism that features on some greeting designs that cause upset and dampen confidence with their negative connotations.
The Better Birthdays! international collaborative campaign is being driven by the British not-for-profit organisation Canopy along with US groups Changing The Narrative and Age Friendly Vibes with the aim of changing attitudes to ageing and challenging ageism.
Canopy director Dr Hannah McDowall and Dave Martin, from the Centre For Policy On Ageing have brought their concerns to the attention of the UK’s greeting card industry having held meetings with GCA ceo Amanda Fergusson, Emotional Rescue’s David Greaves and Brett Smith, Progressive Greetings’ Jakki Brown, and Nicola Miller, buyer for Clintons, to discuss the matter.
Linked to the World Health Organization’s 2021 Global Report On Ageism, which calls for “a movement to change the narrative around age and ageing”, Dave said: “Greeting cards serve as a way to boost wellbeing, to connect across generations, and to celebrate age through the giving of great birthday cards – so what better way to highlight the issues and attitudes towards ageing than birthdays and birthday cards?”
Hannah added that “the campaign is not about shaming designers and makers as we know that the ageist cards are popular,” but the plan is through publishers having a better understanding that some cards “express the social agreement that ageing is bad and all about loss” they can hopefully play their part in putting across a more positive message.
She admitted: “It’s a massive job to unpick the cultural narrative that getting old is bad because we start believing it so early – as young as four years old. We learn, as small children, to become ageist about ourselves, let alone other people, from family and friends, and are constantly told through advertising, culture and politics that to be young is good and to get old is not, that to age is to decline, is to lose youth, vigour and opportunity.”
During the meetings held with those in the industry over the past few months, Hannah and Dave explained that the discussions have focused on how the Better Birthdays! campaign and the greetings industry might work together to inform people to be aware and understand the impact and implications of ageism.
They also want to assist in the creation of cards that are more in tune with what they see as the emerging tastes and interests of the UK’s ageing population, and highlight the nuances and subtleties of creating more age-friendly cards which embrace and celebrate ageing.
Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA, said: “I welcomed the meetings with Dave and Hannah as, by talking, we are able to gain greater understanding. I highlighted that there are lots of age-positive cards on the market, also we cannot tell publishers what to do with their designs, but it was interesting when they pointed out that, on a card that says Still Fabulous At 70, by including the word ’still’ made it a bit negative, whereas Fabulous At 70 is very positive.”
Amanda acknowledged that not a lot is known in the industry about ageism and its effect on health and mental wellbeing but she added: “There are emerging cohorts of older people who want cards which reflect their attitudes to growing older – age pride! We can also see that designs which aim to be age friendly sometimes miss the mark due to the subtleties of negative language or associated imagery.”
Brett Smith, managing director of Emotional Rescue and a GCA council member, said both he and his co-director David Greaves agreed the meeting with Dave and Hannah had been “interesting and useful”.
As a result of the contact made and issues raised, ageism has been added to the agenda for the GCA’s diversity and inclusion committee.
“This definitely should be part of the diversity agenda,” commented Mark Callaby, managing director of Ohh Deer, who heads up the committee.
Dave explained that Better Birthdays! intends to use birthday cards as a platform for talking about age and ageism, and to encourage designers, makers, manufacturers, brokers, retailers and consumers to create and purchase birthday cards that celebrate ageing, instead of denigrating it.
“Birthday celebrations are one of the few common times that we all think and talk about age and ageing,” he said. “It’s a time when we point out what it means to age and what our beliefs are about ourselves and others based on age so, it’s a time when we can make a big impact in changing the conversation about ageing and about making assumptions based on age.”
The Better Birthdays! site allows people to:
- Find out why ageism matters.
- Access resources, including guidance on what better birthday cards sound and look like.
- Dig deeper into issues around ageism in the blog.
- Connect to organisations, makers, sellers and buyers who care about this issue.
- Find links to card designers that produce age friendly/age positive cards.
Hannah added: “We’d very much welcome comments, ideas and thoughts on the campaign. Please share this site, read our blog, learn the guidelines, use cards as tools for change, help create Better Birthdays! for all ages and embrace ageing!”
Top: Kinder cards from Emotional Rescue