Aging is a topic of growing importance. In current society, ageism is rarely discussed in relation to prejudice. Students to End Alzheimer’s Disease helped to address the lacking presence of this issue in society and provide a better understanding of the stigma regarding aging at their coffeehouse held last Thursday at Cholmondeley’s Coffee House.

    The event, organized by co presidents Leah Levine ’17 and Sarah Lipitz ’17, featured several speakers who discussed their connection to growing older as well as many performers who shared their talent in ways that connected to the theme of aging.

    SEAD is a club that works to aid in the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association through community service, increasing awareness and discussing research related to Alzheimer’s disease. This coffeehouse was their largest event of the semester and mainly focused on aging and the stigma that surrounds it.

    The evening began with an introductory welcome given by Levine, who discussed the purpose in leading the event, as well as the overall goals of the club. She began by stating, “Our goal for tonight is to provide an introduction to what we do as a club, what aging is and why we should be talking about it.” She then continued to explain her own experience with Alzheimer’s disease: “My personal interest in the topic began when I was younger. My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and since then, in high school and college, I have been volunteering with older adults with and without the disease.” She strongly believes that older individuals have “been marginalized in a society that focuses so strongly on youthfulness and economic productivity.” Her plan was for this night to be a way of providing awareness for these issues.

       SEAD began by showing a short video about age and how students and faculty on campus feel and think about it. Respondents were asked, “How do you feel about getting older?” Some answers were as simple as “nervous” or “excited,” while other Brandeisians went into great depth about the excitement and fear they experience about  growing older. To most, however, the response was simple: “Age just isn’t on my mind.”

    Following this video was student-led acappella group Company B, which only performs music 25 or more years old. Their performance was a unique way of getting the audience accustomed to the beauty that can come from older culture.

      False Advertising, a long-form musical-improvisation acting group, then performed a set to follow Company B. The group’s performance used comedy to demonstrate the true harms of ageism and why it makes little sense to discredit elder citizens of society. False Advertising is also the oldest improvisation comedy group at Brandeis, which aimed to fit the night’s theme.

      In addition to these performances, several student speakers told their own stories about the positive impact older people have had on their lives. One of them was a young writer, who currently is in the process of writing a book about her relationship with her grandmother. This book focuses on the theme of passing down wisdom from one generation to the next. At the coffeehouse, she read aloud a prelude to this book.

   In poetic language, she discussed the lessons of wisdom that her grandmother has taught her. One example of a lesson she has learned is that “it’s easy to change ourselves and our minds to think that we are more important than someone else.” Additionally, she stated that her grandmother’s long life has taught her that “change is always necessary. Don’t allow negative things to be passed down from generation to generation.”  

In addition to these performances, other individuals shared their art, including a barbershop quartet, as well as another a capella group. In addition, more students gave written speeches about the relevance of older individuals in their lives. Perhaps most notable was Dean of Students Jamele Adams, who delivered a slam poem about age.

Adams, who is well known around campus for his empowering slam poetry, contributed yet again to student events by reading his original poem written about ageism and the true beauty of growing older.

   “The more days you’re on earth,” said Adams, “should not decrease your worth.” He argued, “The older you get, the closer you get to angels … Love is ageless hyperactivity!” He finished off his poem by pleading for society to “Treat people right! Gray hairs come in the night, because age is love reflecting life’s light.” With these words, Adams created an entire poem that capitalized on the beauty rather than the danger that is growing older.

     Overall, the night seemed to be a successful articulation of the true tragedy that age differences create between the young and elderly citizens in our society.

         In an interview with the Justice,  Levine discussed the club and her involvement as well the coffeehouse as a whole.  She went into great depth about her investment in the club’s work as well as her own investment in advocating for Alzheimer’s.  Levine, who is double majoring in Health: Science, Society and Policy and Psychology, plans to work on “outreach and advocacy” for Alzheimer’s disease after college. Levine says, the club was founded for “research focused and community service oriented students” who were interested in the disease. Prior to SEAD’s founding, “there wasn’t really anything related to Alzheimer’s on campus.” Levine currently interns at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she works on Alzheimer’s disease outreach. She hopes to continue with this work after graduation.

   Levine went on to explain that the club has not had an extremely large presence on campus, so this coffeehouse was meant to bring people’s attention to the important issue of memory loss and old age.

   Thanks to the coffeehouse, the many students who were in attendance now have the opportunity to stand up and get involved with SEAD or simply take any action they can in the fight against ageism.