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  • Writer's pictureNancy Griffin

Boomer Expert Launches New Non-Profit Openly Gray

Boomer expert Matt Thornhill announced the launch of Openly Gray, a new non-profit to celebrate positive aging. The founder of Cozy Home Community saw an opportunity to start Openly Gray to address age discrimination using a positive approach to augment traditional efforts “combatting” ageism. “This effort is about getting older adults to change their own mindset about growing older. It’s time we enjoy and embrace growing older,” Thornhill says.

Matt Thornhill has been studying the Boomer generation for almost 40 years. After a long career in advertising targeting young adults (Boomers at the time), Thornhill started the think tank Boomer Project in 2003 to open the eyes of marketers and organizations to Boomers at age 50 and beyond. Jump to today and he’s identified the convergence of three shifts that creates an opportunity for Boomers to transform what it means to grow older in America.

“The first shift,” Thornhill says, “is among Boomers who are, in 2021, now ages 56 to 75. Whether they meant to or not, they are now ‘older adults.’”

The second shift is the demographic change that the U.S. population is growing older. For the next 30 years, every single day another 10,000+ people will reach age 65. That’s right, after Boomers will come Gen Xers, then Millennials, then Gen Zs. There isn’t a drop-off.

Third, we live in a time of pluralism and the rise of identities. Everyone at every age is seeking their place to belong: their “tribe.” Boomers, as they reach older adulthood, want to know where and how they still fit into the culture and don’t want to be marginalized.

“One outcome of these shifts,” says Thornhill, “is that ageism has come to the forefront and anti-ageism efforts are increasing. That’s a good thing. However, those efforts seem to come at the issue from one perspective: Fight Ageism, Change Ageism, Let’s End Ageism.”

They tend to be combative, argumentative, a manifesto, mostly negative, about “them,” about the problem, and rooted in aging.

As those in the anti-ageism space know, older adults are one of the biggest culprits in perpetuating ageism. Their own negative attitudes about growing older fuel perceptions younger people ins society have of older adults.

The Openly Gray Movement is initially targeting older adults already with a positive mindset that being older is a good thing. The organization plans to encourage members to Be Openly Gray by getting them to:

  1. Change how they think about being older. It’s much healthier to acknowledge what life has to offer now than to live in denial.

  2. Talk with pride about their age, life stage, abilities, and dreams. That means not letting others define them and their capabilities. There’s no shame in growing older.

  3. Recruit peers to embrace the Openly Gray mindset by using the hashtags #openlygray and #beopenlygray.

As membership grows, Openly Gray will encourage and equip them to join together to address societal issues and “live their promise.” Thornhill says, “Older adults are an army capable of solving meaningful, entrenched issues. They bring wisdom, ingenuity, time, and experience that can make a difference in communities across the country.”

For senior housing and senior living operators, the Openly Gray movement offers those sectors a new way to celebrate their residents and bring them together with a new purpose to impact those in their communities and beyond. “All of their marketing materials and social media posts should use the hashtags,” Thornhill suggests. “How many times have you heard potential residents say they don’t want to live with ‘a bunch of old people?’ Residents embracing being Openly Gray will attract like-minded prospects.”

“It’s inevitable that we all grow older — or die trying,” Thornhill says with a smile. “But won’t younger people change how they feel about older adults when older adults themselves take pride in their age and life stage? It’s time for us to be Openly Gray.”


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