February 11, 2018

Age Is Used As An Excuse For -


......Anything and Everything 





We don't get that part time job we'd be good at because we are too old. Our doctor tells us we can't engage in our favorite activity anymore, the knee joints won't allow it. The television industry believes older folks aren't attractive  enough to advertisers to produce shows that match our tastes. Movies are too loud, too violent, too sex-filled, or too moronic to motivate us to trek to the theater. Some of our medical providers don't listen to us; they already know what our problems are. These examples of ageism are real and hard to combat by ourselves.

However, there is another type of limitation based on age that is mostly self-generated. We tell ourselves we are too old to learn a new hobby, travel to a fascinating place on the other side of the globe, or go back to school and get the degree we've always wanted. It is too late to find new friends. Moving is too much work at our age.

Stop.

I suggest that a lot of this negativity is in our head. We have convinced ourselves that it is too late to take a risk, too much trouble to fulfill a dream, too silly to attempt to achieve a long-term goal. Yet, history tells us exactly the opposite:

J.R.R. Tolkien published first volume of Lord of the Rings at 62.

Noah Webster finished his dictionary at 66.

Ed Whitlock became the oldest person to run a standard marathon at 69.

Katsusuke Yanagisawa climbed Mt. Everett at 71.

John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space at 77.

Nola Ochs became oldest person to receive a college degree at 95.


You get the point. For these folks, and millions more, age was nothing more than a number. It didn't limit them, it didn't control them, it certainly didn't suggest they were past the point of doing something big or meaningful.

Most of us don't have a Lord of the Rings waiting to be written, but we may have a burning desire to document our family history. Even fewer are willing to undergo the rigors of a marathon or climbing a 29,000 foot mountain. But, the 5K fun run or hiking through the mountain preserve in our town is very doable with a little practice and effort.

Engaging with people younger or older than we are can help widen our horizons and force us to think differently. Embracing some new technology, refusing to talk about "the good old days"  and dwelling on the past certainly helps. A self-imposed sense of helplessness in certain situations becomes reality; if you think you can't do or learn something, then you can't.

Speak up when confronted with a comment or generalization that puts you in a certain age-defined box. "She's 80 and still taking online classes," or  "Can you believe he's 68!" Politely, but firmly, reject such age-based comments when they directed at either you or someone you know. 

I found an excellent resource for recognizing and rejecting age-based comments or generalizations. Be sure to read this article all the way through. There are examples I would have never thought of as hurtful or condescending. 

Ageism is a rather new phenomenon that has been allowed to infect our thinking and our society. If we aren't the ones to point out its limitations and hurtfulness, then who is?

29 comments:

  1. I have to disagree with the final paragraph Bob. I don't think ageism is a "rather new" thing at all. If anything it has been getting better in the last score of years but it has been around forever.

    To be a contrarian, we can't just ignore getting old. It is a fact of life that our bodies wear out and limit our activities. Some of us can manage to stay active as in our youth for longer than others but in the end we all succumb to being "old". I would rather have respect for the wisdom I have obtained from my years on earth. That seems to be what is more missing, especially in the US.

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    1. When we were an agrarian society the elders in the family were given a place of respect. Their opinions mattered and they remained the head of the family until their death. In many other societies, the older members continue to be both revered and protected. In that context, ageism is rather new in the course of human history.

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    2. I was 48 when my daughter had a baby. I was there for a month with her. I told her the answer to something she was wondering about. She said,
      Mama, it has been a long time since you had a baby and they might have changed since then. Well, I had a 19-yr-old, too, and I doubted babies had changed since then. I said something to her mil, who was much older than I was. She was so sad when she said, "None of my kids listen to me about babies, so I just shut up." I was so sad for a woman who had raised seven kids yet her children never took her baby advice.

      My mother told me things to do with a baby, and I listened. EVERY TIME!

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  2. You can start by looking at the recent Super Bowl ad from E Trade:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ILxrRlf3KY

    Pure age discrimination if ever there was one. I found no humor in making fun of the elderly who either must work during their Golden Years through necessity or just plain enjoyment of their trade or profession. Our society continues to depict the elderly as fools, morons and people to be scoffed at and ridiculed. Boycott E Trade.

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    1. How right you are. Older people are rarely portrayed in a positive light. That particular commercial was meant to scare younger people into saving for retirement all while laughing at silly seniors. Boo.

      That was every bit as bad as the use of Martin Luther King's words to sell a truck.

      Advertisers seem to have real blind spots when it comes to what is effective and humorous or motivating.

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  3. This is so true. I recently had a 'conversation' online with one of our local weather-casters, a brilliant young meteorologist we enjoy watching and seeing his young family at events, etc. He was actually at an event our son was emceeing recently and they worked together a bit. Anyway, he's very fashion conscious, as most tv folks are. But, one night his pants were way too long and they looked bunched up at his ankles. Knowing how he sees himself as a fashion forward guy, I commented on his fb page that maybe he should have them altered to prevent the bunching. He came back with something about styles changing from the 'olden days' and this is the new trend. Well, it is a trend that men's suits are more fitted now than when even my sons were first wearing them but, the length should not create a bunching effect at the ankles. I told him I worked in the fashion industry for many years and was perfectly aware of the new trends but his pants were still too long. Dave and I had a laugh at his response but, a few weeks later while we were watching him on the news Dave said, "I think Adam got what you were saying, none of his pants bunch anymore." Made me laugh! But, what doesn't make me laugh is lumping us all in one basket as if we know nothing of what we speak.
    b

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    1. he "olden days" would have sent me into a lather (another very old expression!). Thanks for sharing that example of what we have to face on a regular basis.

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  4. I find myself wanting to see less and less of friends who focus on aches and pains instead of the wonder of life in retirement or intellectually stimulating conversation. Spending more time with younger friends and grandchildren help us stay in the loop! Making an effort to stay ahead of technology, remain physically active and participate in stimulating activities keep us young. Complaining about being “ old” can unfortunately become a self fulfilling prophecy. Love this topic.

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    1. There seems to be an unspoken rule that says if you are over a certain age then every conversation must begin with a reference to your health. I think back to what it must have been like 3 or 4 generations ago: people worked and lived until they died. The focus was on making the most of what you had, not complaining about what you didn't.

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  5. So true! I got my black belt just as I turned 60, and am still practicing martial arts years later. However, I have to admit that some of those age related statements sometimes come from me, as in being so grateful that I am so active and healthy.

    Some of that is good genes, some is a choice to BE active, some is a can do attitude. Like other commenters, I have little patience for those who just want to sit around and complain. I know some of us have legitimate limitations for a variety of reasons, but we still have a choice about our attitude and gratitude.

    It's all relative. When I told my six year old grandson that I was going to be "very old" on my birthday and asked him how old he thought "old" was, he said 20!!! Ha!!

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    1. In the perfect world, I guess, we wouldn't feel compelled to talk about our infirmities or our level of activeness, we would just get on with it. After all, we don't expect a 30 year old to talk about how fit and active he or she is, why should a 60 or 70 year old be any different?

      That day isn't here now, but we can do our part to eliminate both sides of that description.

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  6. I recall being in the car with my girl scout leader when I was about 8 and she asked me what old was. I replied "about 30." Ha ha, it is all relative. At my age I still do new things and made a dear new friend several years ago. Let's keep on reinventing ourselves.

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    1. I am sure you remember "Never trust anyone over 30." It seemed almost reasonable at the time! Now, at more than double the cutoff date, I have no upper limit for anyone.

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    2. Oh boy, do remember that saying. How about we wear t-shirts that say "Never trust anyone under 40." ??? :D

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  7. While I have never given into the age thing, and push the envelope whenever I can in sports and the like, I still have a respect for aging and the inability to be as fast, or jump as high, as in my younger days. Regardless I will continue to look for avenues to push myself as long as I can, which will still hopefully be for many years beyond my current 64.

    And while we criticize younger people's attitude towards the older population, oftentimes it is self-fulfilling with the constant talk of aches and pains, etc. Perhaps if the older population acted, well, less old, the attitude of those younger may change somewhat.

    Lastly, I didn't take the E-Trade commercial the same way as some. The tag line "this is getting old" was directed at older folks as much as anyone, in response to surveys showing older individuals are not saving for retirement but oftentimes racking up big mortgages and other discretionary debt later in life.

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    1. Yes, I can see that interpretation of the E-Trade spot, though I was uncomfortable with the depiction of age. I don't think many older folks who haven't saved enough would be enticed to change their behavior because that commercial. Younger people are probably the target.

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  8. So, the commenter wishes to be with younger people. That suits me. I hurt from back disintegration and if I wince on getting up or hobble on a knee in need of surgery, the folks who don't hurt can find someone else to do. I do not take the pain pills, opoids, that I could get.

    I prefer to be with people that provide intellectual stimulation, and I doubt someone looking for the young ahd healthy individual would provide me with that stimulation.

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    1. I'm not sure who you are referring to by "the commenter." The overall point is to not limit ourselves due to stereotypes of young or old. Intellectual stimulation comes from people with agile, active minds, not someone of a certain age group.

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  9. I tend to be with chuck on the Etrade commercial. I prefer to be with ALL ages, and find folks my kids ages to be just as stimulating. I have soe serious chronic health problems and yes, they come up in conversation and yes, I cannot do things I used to do like climb though mesa Verde but I hope I am never one of those people whi sits aroundand compares whose aches and pains are worse (like the silly commercial with the two guys by the pool).

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    1. One of the reasons Betty and I will delay a move into a retirement community longer than may be wise is the fear of living with nothing but older folks, thereby losing the stimulation and energy of a wide mix of ages.

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  10. See the link below for a friend who skied 100 days last year. He is 96. He does not ski fast or fancy anymore but he gets out there and has fun. I am sure it is good part of what keeps him young. He is a inspiration to me and many others to keep going.

    http://www.kcra.com/article/heavenly-mountain-resort-honors-devoted-96-year-old-skier/12190767

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  11. Rob and I, age 68 and 61, went skiing with some new friends last week who are 70 and late-sixties. We had a fantastic time. During the midweek, most of the skiers at our local ski hill are in our age demographic. I don’t ski as many runs per day as I used to, and I don’t ski the most challenging runs as much, but I hope to be skiing for years to come.

    Jude

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    1. Check out the clip noted above. Maybe that will be you guys in another 30 years!

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  12. While I celebrate elders engaging in activities that contradict the stereotypes, I worry a bit that people celebrate the "outliers" and do not acknowledge reality when it is staring them in the face. My favorite poem, "Desiderata," by Max Ehrmann has a line... "surrender gracefully, the things of youth." I think that is wonderful advice. I see a lot of pathetic elders engaged in a vigorous "rear guard action," trying to deny the advancing years.

    One of my science mentors, Hans Selye, the father of stress physiology had a great saying..."always fight for the highest attainable aim, but do not put up resistance in vain." It has been good advice for me.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Good points, Rick. I like the Max Ehrmann quote. I saw a video of a 96 year old man skiing. More power to him him, but most of us would end up in a hospital or morgue if we weren't in the condition to attempt it.

      Most of my thoughts revolve around the intellectual and social aspects of ageism that we can resist. The physical decline is inevitable, though dwelling on it with others does none of us any good.

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  13. The desire to ski actually keeps many of us younger. I want to go ski so I get outdoors all summer and most days to exercise some and keep things working as I get older. I am over 70 and still ski every winter but so are most of my friends. Yes we worry about the fall risk but you can fall down at home (Me duh!!!). So for most of us having fun and skiing out doors is just wonderful and worth the risk. Life is fun so get out there and live it.....

    Enjoy:) :) :}

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