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Aging Action Initiative Lessons Learned from AAI (April 2021)  By Sami Mericle, AAI Administrative Coordinator

Before I began my work as the administrative coordinator for AAI three years ago, I had never heard the word “ageism”. I had witnessed all four of my grandparents aging and dying, but didn’t understand their individual experiences in connection to bigger systems that devalue and neglect older people. Less than a year out of college, I was grappling with Marin’s unaffordability, beginning to make payments on my massive student loan debt, and experiencing discrimination as a young woman, all while trying to sketch out my future in a world with escalating environmental issues. It was difficult not to blame older generations for the problems that my friends and I were experiencing, and too easy to adapt the ‘us versus them’ attitude illuminated in “ok boomer” memes. It was easy to think that as a young person, I had more at stake in the world, and my opinions were more relevant than those of older people.

I quickly revised that perspective after I began working with the many smart, compassionate leaders in AAI’s network. I learned that while there are certainly people in older generations who plundered the environment and fortified harmful capitalist systems for their own enrichment (as there will be in every generation), the vast majority are facing the same issues I am, but often with added complications. I learned that addressing those issues serves not only our most vulnerable community members, but makes life better for all of us. One of Linda’s most-used quotes is from Enrique Peñalosa, who said, ”If you build a city that is great for an 8-year-old and for an 80-year-old, then you build a city that is going to be great for everybody.”

I saw that most Boomers care very deeply about younger generations, and would never be so short-sighted as to suggest that Millennials can’t afford to buy homes because we spend too much money on avocado toast (as I often see in “ok boomer” memes). I witnessed Marin’s older residents leading the fight to make this county a more just, inclusive place in so many ways. 

As I move on to a new job in Phoenix, I am grateful to be able to take many lessons from AAI with me. Yes, I acquired tangible skills that I can add to my resume, but more importantly, I hope that I have learned to never again discredit, overlook, or condescend to someone because of their age. I look forward to visiting a Marin that is increasingly great for everybody, thanks to the work of AAI, our network, and the many other hard-working problem solvers in this county.