Artists Create Age Affirming Birthday Cards

rack of birthday cards

by Catherine E. Shoichet for CNN

Birthday cards calling someone “over the hill” or making fun of them for getting older are so common that many people don’t think twice about them. But Sara Breindel is hoping you will.

Breindel is co-director of a Denver-based anti-ageism campaign dubbed Changing the Narrative. And when it comes to how we talk about getting older, she’s been trying to do just that.

Dismayed by “the racks of birthday card options that mock older adults as weak, deaf, forgetful and crabby,” the group created a contest asking artists to design birthday cards with a more “age-positive” approach.

Breindel says the winning designs, and others like them, are sending a powerful and critically important message.

Birthday cards may sound innocuous, but Breindel says they’ve become a prominent example of harmful messaging that can have significant health consequences.

“The way we think about aging affects how we age,” she says, pointing to research showing that negative views on aging can affect physical and mental health and even decrease someone’s lifespan, while “age-positive views” can help people live longer.

For years, “over the hill” birthday cards were the norm, says Sarah Schwartz, editor-in-chief of Stationery Trends.

But times are changing, she says. Cards in general are becoming kinder, Schwartz says, and makers who design cards that are more positive about aging are building a growing following on social media and capturing a small but growing share of the greeting card market.

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