It could be my imagination, but lately there seems to be an increase in the amount of age denial going on – particularly, an uptick in requests to review books on how to stay young forever and also, more ads for wrinkle removers and a zillion products labeled anti-aging.
Just that word – anti-aging – is in and of itself demeaning – a constant reminder to elders that something is wrong with us or that we are are lacking or failing in some manner.
It doesn’t help that almost all newspaper writers, television reporters and pundits on- and offline daily malign old people with offhanded, derogatory references to early-bird dinners, velcro fasteners, computer illiteracy and such gratuitous assumptions as this: “The rules for property tax sales can be confusing, especially to elderly people who can’t keep track of their finances…” [emphasis added]
That one was from AP writer Daniel Wagner in a story sympathetic to elders caught in the bank foreclosure overkill.
Then there this example from Mike Barnicle when he was substitute hosting on Willie Geist’s TV show, Way Too Early in July, referring to it as Way Too Elderly. Wow – what a hilarious guy.
Such seemingly minor insults happen hundreds of times a day and there is a cumulative effect – not a good one – on all old people. When these slurs are pointed out, people shrug. I didn’t mean any harm, they say. Even some old people defend them: they’ll get old some day and change their minds, say those elders.
Really? And until then old people are allowed to be slighted, diminished and abased? That’s okay?
How is any of this different from watermelon and fried chicken references?
When, in the 1960s, the civil rights movement made the N-word unacceptable and the women’s movement made the word “girl” toxic, the lives of blacks and women began to improve. When language changes so does behavior. And when the language related to old people improves so will their lives.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jacqueline Herships: How a Baby Bluejay, Feral Cats and the West Nile Virus Might be Connected