Challenging Ageism One Card at a Time

with Jan Golden,

Founder, Age-Friendly Vibes

This week on the Art of Aging, host Rev. Beth Long-Higgins chats with Jan Golden, Founder of Age-Friendly Vibes, about her mission to combat ageism in the greeting card industry. Jan discusses her background, the negative messages prevalent in traditional birthday cards, and her company’s alternative, age-positive approach. Beth and Jan explore the cultural impact of ageism, the challenges of competing with major card companies, and the positive reception of Age-Friendly Vibes’ products. The episode also touches on the role of humor in addressing ageism, Jan’s upcoming workshops in 2024, the importance of changing the narrative around aging, and more.
Play Video


Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • Ageism in Birthday Cards (2:46)
  • Vision for Age-Friendly Vibes (8:23)
  • Challenges in the Greeting Card Industry (13:55)
  • Positive Messages in Age-Friendly Vibes Cards (18:07)
  • Response and Future Plans (19:32)
  • Expanding Beyond Birthday Cards (20:59)
  • Humor and Ageism (22:57)
  • Impact of Humor on Aging (25:02)
  • Unpacking Ageism (26:56)
  • Self-Acceptance with Age (29:25)
  • Surprises of Aging (30:07)
  • Inspirational Aging Heroes (31:02)
  • Connecting with Jan and Final Takeaways (32:55)


Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit


Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 00:07
Hello and welcome to The Art of Aging part of the Abundant Aging podcast series from United Church Homes. And this show looks at what it means to age in America and in other places around the world with positive and empowering conversations that challenge, encourage and inspire all to age with abundance. Today, I am pleased to welcome Jan Golden. After a career as a web developer Jana was inspired to start a stationery business that tackles ageism, Age-Friendly Vibes was born after she participated in a greeting card contest during the pandemic. She used her graphic design and tech skills as well as her creativity to create a line of age friendly greeting cards. Instead of birthday cards with jokes about getting older or being old and frail, her cards celebrate age, and make positive statements about age and birthdays. The best part is seeing the reaction to the positive sentiments I put out there in the world, she says, knowing that I may have a small part in celebrating instead of dreading a birthday is heartwarming. Most recently, Jan has been recognized by Next Avenue as one of eight dynamic advocates for aging and 2024. Welcome, Jan. Well, thank

Jan Golden 01:17
you so much. And thank you for that wonderful introduction. I’m so happy to be here with you today.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 01:23
Just a reminder that this podcast series is sponsored by United Church Homes, Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging. To learn more about the center, including your annual symposium in October, you can visit So first of all, Jan, you’ve done a lot in your professional life. But now you’re choosing to do this agenda, starting a new business with the small task of ending ageism, and you’re doing it through birthday cards. Why are you spending your energy here?

Jan Golden 02:00
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I have a great answer for it as well. So for me, this business, which I started at age 60, by the way two years ago, really is the sweet spot for me in finding something that, you know, I love to do, that I happen to be good at. My skills align really well with what the world needs, right? So we need someone to tackle birthday cards in the messages that they contain. And it’s also something that I can make money at and make a career out of. So for me, it really just aligned really well. And is something that I just wake up every day excited to do. So it’s been really a joy.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 02:45
So let’s unpack the birthday card. When we talk about ageism on birthdays, what has the industry traditionally offered us?

Jan Golden 02:56
I think we’ve all seen it. If we looked at a greeting card aisle, especially in like a big box retailer or pharmacy or grocery store, you see the cards that poke fun at getting all the right so some of them are pretty mild and you might check lab, but others are pretty overtly ageist, like with, I think you’ve seen those with caricatures of older adults, you know, with saying body parts and you know, doing exaggerated things. And just also just the cards that just declare that you are now old and now, you know, all that decline dementia, depression is setting in. So there’s been a tradition of a pretty negative view of aging, which leads to, you know, contributes to the messages that we see everyday. Yeah,

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 03:48
absolutely. You know, when I talk to groups of folks about ageism, and where they can see examples of it, I always send them to the perfect Carlisle.

Jan Golden 03:56
Yes, yes. It’s a really great way for people to understand ageism as well, because it’s just one of those practical examples of an ageist message. So and then I wanted to mention just real quick that from a traditional offering is well, I had done a little digging when I got into this and it just sort of bothered me on why this industry has this tradition of showing especially that caricatures of older adults, and I traced it back to Maxine, that character that Hallmark created and digging into it a little Of course, I was aware of Maxine, but you know, she’s the one with the bunny slippers and the you know, the kind of caricature a cartoon of an older woman and she’s grumpy and sarcastic and making you know, sarcastic quips about life in general but getting older and that that character was a huge moneymaker for Hallmark and you know, she had a long lifespan And in fact, they’re still selling Maxine cards today. But in the mid to late 80s. And all through the 90s, she was wildly popular. So a lot of copycat brands also started repeating the sentiments and the imagery that made Maxine so popular, which is what made it really take root in the greeting card industry. But as we all know, like a lot of things, I think it’s time for Maxine to retire or to be, you know, something new. Yeah, exactly. But it’s hard to argue with the success that she had. But again, it was at a time and a place we think about back in the 80s, what was going on in the world. And you know, how older women are perceived and older adults, and then just their response and reaction, right, that was waiting for social media, all sorts of things. But anyway, Maxine, to me, is the birth of the ages birthday card, and I have a blog post on my website that goes into a little more detail about it.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 06:02
And wasn’t she created by a man who was in his 20s or 30s.

Jan Golden 06:13
Yeah, actually, he was modeling it after his mother and his aunt who was not, was not married at the time. And he would listen to them sort of in their commentary about life, and then kind of pick up some of their sarcastic like snippets about life. And at the time, it was part of, well, it’s still part of shoebox greetings, but Hallmark was, you know, when you care enough to send the very best, they were just sweet and sentimental. And so this kind of shook up their greeting card line a little bit. It was popular just because people were looking for, you know, a different type of sentiment. So yeah, it’s just sort of an interesting origin story, to go back to and the originator does comment and some interviews later in his life that he has since retired, but he comments on how, you know, kind of makes me cringe some of the things that he was writing as he got older, because then he understood that some of them were a bit ages. So he made a comment on something like I would never give that card to my mother. So like, anyway, so yeah, there’s a lot of deep rooted history in the green card industry with ageism, and age cards that are still unfortunately living on today.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 07:36
Well, and it follows. You know, I’ve heard it said for years that folks were working in marketing, for instance, you know, that there’s a lot of ageism in commercials and whatnot. And whether it’s, you know, video or on TV or in magazines, that, you know, more folks in that industry are very young. And they’re the ones that are perpetuating these stereotypes. And so here’s the birth, this character on this birthday card also was started by a male who is at the time in his 20s and 30s. And yeah, it’s just kind of an interesting parallel.

Jan Golden 08:15
Yes, for sure. But we copy things that sell and are successful. Right. So I guess that’s part of it, the same formula, I guess, was working

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 08:23
same, but that’s not what you’re doing. So tell us about Age-Friendly Vibes, and kind of what is your vision for this new company? And what’s different about the messages?

Jan Golden 08:35
Yeah, well, one of the things that really struck me, first of all was, I’m an older woman, an older adult, and I do not like receiving those types of cards, and I see them on the shelf. And back when I was inspired to start this business, you mentioned in the introduction, I was participating in an anti age’s birthday card contest that was sponsored by changing the narrative during COVID. And as part of my research around that, I Googled like, funny card, funny birthday card snarky birthday card, and I was just astounded by the number of cards that came up that were just overtly ages, like, happy birthday year, one year closer to the sweet release of death, you know, it’s like, Whoa, boy, who wants to get that kind of card and just, you know, kind of worse from there. There’s a lot of varying degrees, but I really hadn’t really looked at it through that lens before. But once I started to realize, especially in the snarky or funny or clever category, there was a lot of ageism, you know, seeping into the messages on birthday cards. So, about that same time. Dr. Becca Levy’s book has come out. I’m breaking the age code, and I had been familiar with her research before that It basically proves that your mindset has a lot to do with how you age, in fact, impacts your longevity by up to eight years, over seven and a half years, so I just the those two things thinking like we’re literally, like we’re making people feel bad about their birthday, but it’s not just a joke. It’s literally impacting their health and impacting their longevity. And why would you do that to someone you care about enough to send a birthday card to so anyway, that it just didn’t seem right to me. So I got pretty fired up. And so I think for me, then that was a really strong why and the motivation behind it, of being aware of ageism, even before this, you know, opportunity came up, it just was the perfect pairing for me with my graphic design skills and things I thought well, and then, just real quickly, I also at the time was a change agent for changing the narrative and going through the reframing aging training to a brand new institute. And so understanding that you could flip the script on just messages I just started playing around with flipping, you know, one of my early Top Sellers was instead of Damn, you’re old, it says, Damn, you’re hot, you know. So as an example, I had a lot of fun early on just taking some of the most old messages and flipping them into a more positive light. So, yeah, it’s been really kind of fun and interesting to do. Yeah. And,

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 11:37
you know, I first, I think I first came across your work during that first contest through changing the narrative, and, and then we’ve had the opportunity to work together through the American society on aging. And then you were a sponsor of our symposium last fall, which was all about ageism. And I just want to point out that the birthday cards that you’re producing are not just to give to people who are older, right? That we need to be having, and sharing these messages with folks across the lifespan. So my daughter had her birthday earlier this month, and I sent her an aging fiercely since birth. Oh, wonderful. Card, because she has been eating fiercely since. And yeah, she’s 31. And it, the messages apply to anybody who’s aging, maybe not kids, but as adults. And that’s what I love about them that they are, you know, you’re hoping to share that message. But it’s not just for older adults. Right.

Jan Golden 12:48
And one of the things you touched a little bit on, the difference in my line is that I’m not afraid to talk about aging, which is really the elephant in the room on your birthday, right? I am pretty proud of the fact that I’ve found ways to, you know, talk about it in kind of neat and clever and thought provoking ways. And the intention is to start a conversation about how you feel about getting older or. And so that’s been the difference with my line. I don’t think there’s very many brands out there that are addressing age, but it will be positive or upside of aging, they either avoid it altogether with some beautiful card with a beautiful sentiment on it. Or there’s food ponds or pop culture type stuff going on. But I’m one of the few brands that’s actually addressing age in a positive light. So it’s worked out really well. So

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 13:44
how does it feel to be starting this company, your own company and know that you’re kind of up against the big greeting card industry? Yeah,

Jan Golden 13:55
It’s a great, great question. You know, when I started making cards, I put them up for sale on Etsy, and I got some great responses. And so what I decided I needed to do, though, was to understand as much as I could about the greeting card industry, because the greeting card industry is huge. There’s 65 billion greeting cards sold every year, which is just a huge industry. And I knew that I needed to conform with the greeting card industry standards, if I wanted to, you know, have a seat at the table, if you will. And so I did everything I could early on to understand more about the greeting card industry while I was also educating people about ageism on my social media platforms, and then also of course, in the products that I was producing. But I ended up exhibiting at my first trade show probably within the first year, and it was in San Francisco. So the greeting card trade show and it’s one of the biggest events of the year. And I remember setting up my booths. And I had neighbors on either side of me that were makers, women in their 30s. And each one of them had a, one of the damn year old cards up on their wall, because they happen to be, you know, cards that sold well for them, even though the rest of their brand really didn’t focus on ageism, or even, or birthdays really, in general. So it was interesting to see that within my peers and my makers, you know, in the small maker community, to have a chance for them to ask me a little bit about ageism, or just gently ask them like, Hey, how’s that card selling for you? Or do you realize what, how that can come across that type of thing. So I’m really proud of the influence that I’ve had on other makers within the industry. And as I’ve gained success, through industry, trade shows, and selling to stores, and gotten the attention. In the press, I’ve also attracted some of the key, you know, big box retailers like Barnes and Noble and Paper Source, which is interesting, because you don’t have a chance to explain ageism to the buyers of those cards, they’ve just got to look at your design your message and say that that’s a good message, or that’s something that would resonate, you know, or that’s something that’s missing, or card walls. So it’s still sort of a slippery slope within the greeting card industry, I learned pretty early on that. You can’t attack like what has been successful for them. And I didn’t need to, I just wanted to provide an alternative. So even with retailers that were carrying some ages, cards, I didn’t not sell to them, because they had a just cards on their shelf, I said, here’s an alternative, that would be great, you know, put this card on your shelf too, and see which one people are going to pick up and grab. And that approach has worked really well. It’s just like people are wanting another alternative. And they want to feel good about their birthdays. And here’s an option for them. So that has been really good in the greeting card industry. I’ve interjected myself pretty deeply by volunteering committees, and I speak and I do all the things that I do to help, you know, be a good member of that community. And I’ve, you know, gotten a seat at the table at the greeting card association workshop and retreat last year actually, where I got to talk about my business and the cause behind it, which is huge, because it’s just another avenue that people have or just their brings their awareness up around ageism and the harmful impacts, without me really saying that the greeting card industry, you know, is rooted in ageism, I don’t need to really say that. So anyway, it’s it’s been a really interesting ride for Sharon,

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 18:00
What are some of the messages that you’ve put out there that have been really attractive? And what are some of the things have been,

Jan Golden 18:07
I can show you this one here. So this is part of one of my sweet sentiments, it says the older you get, the more beautiful you are inside and out. This is like Who wouldn’t want to receive that card on their birthday, right? That’s been a top seller, mine, and one that has been picked up by Paper Source and Barnes and Noble and the big box retailers. But I also have thin cards like this, which is acknowledging that you’re at the age when you realize they were all wrong, and you’re about this age. So that’s intended to be a great conversation starter with somebody on their birthday. Just by, you know, acknowledging between two of you that yeah, aging years, actually, there’s a lot of upside to aging. And I’ll show you one more. This is an example of flipping the script. And this has been one of my popular cards as well. It’s It’s Happy Birthday, thanks for being instead of an old brand crossed out and it says a longtime friend, which just sort of changes it a little bit and gives people something to stop and think about when they’re giving a card to a friend or a loved one on their birthday. So I’m pretty proud of some of these sentiments. Yeah,

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 19:23
absolutely. What kind of a response do you get back from people who are buying up? We’re receiving them?

Jan Golden 19:32
Well, I’ve had a great response. A lot of I’ve been looking for something like this. I haven’t been able to find anything like this. And in fact, I’ve got a couple of licensing deals in the works, too. So in the greeting card industry, me Yeah, I live in the Denver area. Still produce cards. I get them printed at a local printer, but I’m packaging them now. I’m taking your order now. Um, you know, I’ve got a little bit of help, but it’s me basically getting that order out the door. I know that’s not scalable as far as where I want to get the message out. So the next step is to get a rep, a sales rep who goes out on your behalf and sells your greeting card line. I’ve got that going on as of last year, which has increased my reach. But the next step is to get companies to license your messaging and your art, and to produce the card and distribute it more widely. And I’m proud to say that I’ve got a couple of deals and the words are not quite finalized yet. But I’m hoping this year that I’m able to get out of the production of cards and get a licensing deal that allows for my messages and sentiments to be, you know, to get even greater reach. So it’s kind of the next step.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 20:54
And you’ve gone a little bit beyond birthday cards, even at this stage of your business. Right.

Jan Golden 20:58
Yeah. So I think you mentioned I think you and I met at the on aging conference last year in person. And that there has been a mega report from art against ageism is somebody that I’ve been collaborating with since early on, due to my stickers and art prints that celebrate age, and she kind of messaged me that you need to go on aging and exhibit. So I did that last year in Atlanta, and I found this whole new world and my people who understand ages are men who, who, especially from a, I call myself, a pro age advocate, and an activist from that perspective, but being able to put messages out there that are pro age to get more pro age messages all around the world via stickers, or buttons, or even birthday cards as well, was a whole nother kind of b2b channel for my business, which has been as profitable as getting my greeting cards into stores. So it’s been a really delightful sales channel for me in this business. And something actually that’s really helped to sustain my business. Instead of, you know, selling one card at a time or trying to figure out how to make money selling a greeting card, I can have this larger impact with organizations that understand ageism, and also benefit from the messages that I put out.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 22:36
Yeah. Great. So speaking of on Aging, I know that you’re going to be attending the one that’s coming up here in 2024. You’re doing a workshop on humor? And yeah, it strikes me that, you know, in addition to researching birthday cards, you’ve been researching humor, right? Yes.

Jan Golden 22:57
Because yeah, thank you for mentioning that, because it’s one of the biggest push backs that we get around birthday cards, especially the older ones, like, can’t take a joke, you know, but this is funny. And I want to laugh about age, because we’re all in this together. And let’s all have a big chuckle about it. So I’ve been working with Sarah from changing the narrative and with Janine and changing the narrative around a gist of humor and just kind of digging into it. And even people who are aware of ageism, are still saying, Yeah, but we got to laugh about it, you know. And so, we’re trying to find the balance there. And because, of course, I’d like to laugh as well. But just digging a little bit deeper into what, what are those messages really saying? And then in the greater context, you know, it’s not just a message between you and your college roommate or you on your bestie when it’s on a shelf in a store, it’s really my biggest awareness there is that it’s something that hiring manager of yours is seeing as far as like, oh, when you’re older, you can’t use technology and your you know, your body parts are starting to, you know, you have all kinds of things failing. But your medical professional too, is looking at those cards, everybody in the marketing space that’s younger, that doesn’t understand ageism is like wow, this must be what it’s like, you know, to get older. So, there’s more people than just you. It’s not a private like inside joke when it’s on public display. And then also understanding, you know, sort of the context in which sent messages are given. Maybe the receiver doesn’t want to be reminded that their knees are creaking. You know, I ran into this man last year, and it was online in an online group and he had messaged me in the Zoom chat about his family and his children. had always called them an old fart. And they made a big joke about every year giving him an old fart card. You know, they’ve been doing this for years and years. And he said, I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to tell them that I don’t want this to be funny anymore. You know, it’s kind of turned the corner. So I think there’s that kind of a thing to just sort of stop and think about, you know, who’s really laughing at the sentiment again, on your birthday? Happy birthday, you know, it’s so anyway, I think we just our goal is to get people to think a little more broadly about humor in aging, and what kind of message you’re really delivering. And if there’s another message that might be more well received or more uplifting for your birthday. So and

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 25:49
It is a tough thing. I I did a workshop for some folks, some staff members within United Church homes about six months ago. And I was really introducing ageism to this group. And I went out and first of all, the good thing is I had a hard time finding agents birthday cards, or let me say, I had a hard time finding agents birthday cards that I was willing to purchase. I wasn’t going to spend a whole lot of money. Yeah. So the cheaper places for birthday cards, it was difficult to find them. So I then pass them out into the group. And I said, you know, how would you feel if you received this card? And people were like, I receive him? Yeah, well, this is kind of funny to me. And I realized, okay, yeah, this, we have absorbed those messages. Yes. And it’s gonna take a while for us to really unpack and understand that the detriment that we’re doing is that we continue to see them or stalk them, or give them or, you know, whatever. So,

Jan Golden 26:55
yeah, and I think there was a time not that long ago, and we were, you know, joking about women and, you know, the dumb blonde jokes or whatever. And I think, culturally, we have in our history, you know, sort of marginalized groups made fun or poked fun or whatever. But as you know, the thing about ageism is that it impacts us all. And it’s so deeply embedded in our culture, that it’s one of the, one of the areas of, you know, discrimination that people have a hard time actually seeing, because it’s so ingrained in ourselves, which, you know, I just love the whole topic, because it’s not cut and dried. There’s a lot of messy edges around it. And there’s a lot of, you know, conversation around it, which I think it’s all great. It’s all good to get people thinking about this topic, no matter what side they’re on. So we’re super thrilled to be talking about your ages, humor at the add on aging coming up next month. So

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 27:55
Well, and there’s always a you know, I’m always peeling back layers. within myself. It’s like, okay, that is just and I’ve been, you know, saying that or thinking that for a long time. And right. Yeah. So we’re talking about ourselves. We’re not talking about a group of other people when we Exactly, yeah. Well, Dan, thank you for being with us today. It’s exciting to hear your plans for the future, and where you’re headed with these things. As we come to the close of our podcast, I’m going to ask you three questions that we’ve warned you about ahead of time. But before we do that, I just want to ask, Where can people find you? Oh, great

Jan Golden 28:38
question. The best place is, you can find my cards and what I’m working on my website, which is I’m also active on LinkedIn under my name, Jan Golden, and my business is there as well. And I’m also very active on Instagram, under Age-Friendly Vibes. Instagram is where all the creatives are hanging out. And then LinkedIn is where all the probate advocates are hanging outside, equally love, you know, hanging out and both of those platforms, so please connect with me there. Or just visit my website. Great.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 29:11
Thanks for helping to bridge those two worlds. Yeah. Okay. Question number one. When you think about how you’ve aged What do you think has changed about you or grown with you that you really like about yourself?

Jan Golden 29:25
Yeah, that’s such a good question. I feel like for me, it’s really comfortable in my skin. I appreciate the life experiences I’ve had the good, the bad, the ugly and what I’ve learned along the way, and I’m more than that confidence and comfort makes me take more chances and more risks. And it’s just been a pretty exciting time in my life. So yeah, there’ve been lots of surprises, but all day for me Excellent.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:00
Okay. Second question. What has surprised you most about yourself as you’ve aged?

Jan Golden 30:06
I see I jumped the gun a little bit on that second question. But I think, you know, I can put myself back in my 30s and 40s, and how I was feeling and thinking. And I think the thing that surprises me most as a woman in my 60s is that things really do get better. When you age, you know, I’m more creative, I’m more focused and more relaxed, I’m enjoying life, things are simpler. And I’m able to do the things that I might have aspired to do when I was in my 30s and 40s. But I just had too much going on. So yeah, those things actually really do get better with age.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:49
Okay. And lastly, here’s the third question. Is there someone you’ve met? Or who’s been in your life that has set a good example for you and aging someone that inspires you to age abundantly?

Jan Golden 31:02
Yeah, and this is another great question. And I have to say Janine Vanderburgh Well, I know, you know, as well, who is not only my friend, but my mentor, and my inspiration along this whole journey. I’m fortunate enough to live in Denver, as well, along with Janine and in early on before, you know, when she started changing the narrative as one of the early volunteers for that organization and got trained, but she to watch her journey and her focus and her passion and her relentless pursuit, and the success that she’s had, you know, stay me on the clarity on the message around ageism. And she’s just really inspiring to me. And she actually attracts a lot of other inspiring people to be around her. So I just love being in her company and being around her because I think she makes us all better. So she’s definitely somebody who is a good example for aging in my world. So great.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 32:02
Thank you. Thank you to our listeners for listening to this episode of The Art of Aging part of the abundant aging podcast series from United Church Homes. We want to hear from you. What’s changed about you as you’ve aged that you love? What has surprised you most and how do you define abundant aging and who is your abundant aging, influencer or hero? Join us at to share your ideas, you can also give us feedback when you visit the Ruth Frost Parker Center website at And if you’re attending 2024 on aging conference in San Francisco, and you can meet Jan there, and you can hear more about humor and the role that plays in ageism or overcoming ages. I’m not exactly sure what the title of your workshop is. Yeah, but I’m sure you will talk I’m most

Jan Golden 32:57
I’m also exhibiting so go to the exhibition hall and I have a booth there and you can meet me and actually I’ll have products for sale. So I’d love to meet you there.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 33:06
Absolutely. Are we good to see you again? Well, thank you, Jan, for your time today and thank you for all you’re doing to help overcome ages.

Jan Golden 33:13
Great, thank you.