Friday, April 25, 2014
There was a time when I would be flattered. Not anymore.
I was leaving an older friend's house today. I dropped off something and stayed a while to chat. She gets lonely. She has kidney disease, genetic. Nothing anybody can do even though her sons offered their kidneys years ago. A transplant wouldn't help.
I was out the door, heading down her path when I overheard her say loudly to another friend:
"My gawd, she looks so young, are you sure she's as old as she says she is?"
My awareness of ageism is at a high level. I see it everywhere, even coming from other elders with their "cute" posts on FB, you know the ones: as if seniors are all one brick short of a load, one bulb short of a lighthouse. Some are more offensive than others and poke fun at elders' sexuality, teeth, weight, forgetfulness, clothing, incontinence. You name it. When I address this with them and say: put an aboriginal in place of that elder, put a negro there in that cartoon or a gay person. See how unfunny it is now?
Ah, they say, we can poke fun at ourselves, can't we?
Erm, no, it's not funny. All these "innocent" little jokes and innuendoes and othering leads to abuse. It's called discrimination. And ageism. You're telling the whole world out there that all elders are feeble, simple and stupid and can't take care of themselves. And those "funny" jokes reinforce that perception. Aging is to be feared. Anti-aging is an enormous industry - Botox, Viagra, hair transplants, teeth transplants, skin abrasions, liposuction, pills, cosmetics.
And if you'd done all the research I've done on elder abuse, you would GET it. It starts with the "Depends" jokes and then moves down the hill to all elders are smelly and stupid and are one big joke - giving those who "care" for them the right to take over their lives, their possessions, their bank accounts, etc., and they'd be too stunned to notice.
So no, I am not flattered when others call me "young" for my age or OMG I'm jogging, or I'm writing, or meeting friends who are at the other end of the age spectrum for dinner or planning new adventures.
This is what an elder looks like and behaves like.