pushing back against ageism—which affects everyone


Yo, Is This Ageist?

Anonymous asked: From a Q&A column in the real estate section: "Q. Our bathroom is outfitted with grab bars, anti-slip mats and other safety features. Should we remove them before trying to sell?" An agent advises removing them “because they’re easily removed, and it just eliminates a distraction and a conversation you don’t want to have.”

Ageist, ableist, and stupid. Why show the house to older people, after all?  Or to anyone whose households might include older members or people with disabilities? Or to anyone athletic who might someday injure themselves? And for heavens sake keep the person who needs those grab bars out of sight during the open house!

Anonymous asked: This PSA for the Common Core curriculum?

Ouch! In this staggeringly insulting video, “Pop-pop” plays an ignorant, rude, biased, blowhard. The only thing that comes off worse is Six One Seven Studios, the group that cooked up this campaign.

From Hana: I had two thoughts looking at this poster in the window of a tanning salon:
1. Actually, aging isn’t optional, unless you’re not alive.
2. Doesn’t tanning increase wrinkles, which are one of society’s most visibly associated symbols of aging?
Right on both counts—and not the first time I’ve seen tanning joints tout their “anti-aging” properties.

From Hana: I had two thoughts looking at this poster in the window of a tanning salon:

1. Actually, aging isn’t optional, unless you’re not alive.

2. Doesn’t tanning increase wrinkles, which are one of society’s most visibly associated symbols of aging?

Right on both counts—and not the first time I’ve seen tanning joints tout their “anti-aging” properties.

Fake Bus Stops Designed to Fool Old People

From Josh: A Senior Center in Germany has planted a fake bus stop out front in order to fool Alzheimer’s patients into sitting down and waiting for a bus instead of wandering off into the City, a strategy which has begun to spread. Presumably this saves police resources and minimizes stress among their caregivers, but it does so by taking advantage of the diminished mental capacities of these oldsters. Is this a brilliant social services strategy or a cruel ageist trick?

This has less to do with how society treats older people than with how it treats people who are cognitively impaired. Fake bus stops do involve deceit, which is ethically problematic. They aren’t cruel, though, because no one is being hurt, and it’s hard to take issue with furniture that keeps people safe, helps caregivers, and saves money. 

Esurance online ads are ageist. Don’t buy it!

from Cynthia: Esurance continually produces ads that are ageist, divisive and insulting to all.  Perhaps Esurance thinks older individuals don’t use the Internet, therefore their “humor” will not affect their bottom line.  It’s time for all of us, young and old, to stop patronizing Esurance and let them know what they are doing is wrong!  If the folks they are making fun of were people of color v. elders, the ads would be pulled immediately.  Take action.  Don’t buy Esurance and call them out on their ageist ads online! 

I completely agree.

These Grandmas Rock Harder Than Your Grandma

Well, the t-shirts are spankin’ brand new, which makes me think that this is not so much “these women enjoy the music they enjoyed when they were younger” (which I would dig) as “lol isn’t it funny/cute to see grannies wearing heavy metal t-shirts” (which irks me).  The former would challenge assumptions and misconceptions, while the latter reinforces them, seems to me.  Yo, is this ageist?

The photos are clearly contrived—”Heavy metal grandmas,” how daring! ACDC ‘n teacups, how cute!—and there’s no suggestion that these women rock anything but the shirts, so I agree that the basic message is condescending. What’s grandmotherhood got to do with it?  Why the ageist assumption that “your grandma” has no Megadeath accessories?  

On the other hand, I think the photographer intended to challenge ageist assumptions about who listens to what, which is all to the good. Fans of all ages, represent!

Anonymous asked: Last weekend I went to an outdoor dance party with a bunch of friends celebrating a 40-somethingth birthday. A few of us were in our 60s, well above the median age, but the crowd was really friendly — except for the guy who called my friend "Grandma." She didn't tell me about it till later and was too startled to respond. What should she have said to this jerk?

The snappy answer — Didn’t your mommy teach you any manners? Are you cranky because you missed your nap? — is tempting, but it doesn’t make for much of a teachable moment. Better to ask, “Why did you call me that?” and follow up with “How do you think it made me feel?” At a minimum, the guy would have had to stop and think about it. And perhaps she could have gone on to point out that it’s no more acceptable to call an older person “grandma” than to call a heavy person “fatso,” or a developmentally delayed person “retard,” or, or, or… 

So far, so good.

So far, so good.

millennials embracing "granny" lifestyle?

Identifying oneself as a “grandma” is a growing phenomenon, particularly among twentysomethings who refuse to leave their apartments over the weekend.”

Hipsters have been embracing granny chic for a while now—”I’ma take your grandpa’s style” says Macklemore in Thrift Shop—but it’s ageist to assume there’s any such thing as a granny lifestyle, let alone that it involves nothing but knitting and vegging.

Dwight Garner on Marja Mills on Harper Lee

YO!  I would file this under “ask” but I have too many characters to unload.

Literary critic Dwight Garner wrote a light takedown of the ‘The Mockingbird Next Door’ by Marja Mills (the “unauthorized” biography of Harper Lee) this week, and the review goes off track from the content of the biography to inadvertently reveal Garner’s own distaste for Old People Stuff.  Full disclosure: I can’t speak to the content of the review since I haven’t read it yet.

He critiques the voice of the subject Ms. Lee as banal, but the quotes (eg. “Oh, bless his heart.” “Thank you, hon. You are a good egg.” “I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a meal more.” “Oomph. I’m bushed.”) sound a lot like any conversation I have had with my own Grandmother over the past few years.  As my Grandmother got into her late 80s, her mobility took a sharp decline and her social experience contracted. Once her memory began to go, we started talkin a whole lotta nothin, trading pleasantries and retelling the same tales on the regular.  I do miss my Grandmother asserting her advice and opinions, but this lighter banter is in her comfort zone, and so here we are. If my Grandmother had written a modern classic earlier in her life would I have to be disappointed with her communication style now?

The standout paragraph follows:

“The Mockingbird Next Door” conjured mostly sad images in my mind. Ms. Lee has a regular booth at McDonald’s, where she goes for coffee. She eats takeout salads from Burger King on movie night. When she fishes, she uses wieners for bait. She feeds the town ducks daily, with seed corn from a plastic Cool Whip Free container, calling “Woo-hoo-HOO! Woo-hoo-HOO!” Somehow learning all this is worse than it would be to learn that she steals money from a local orphanage.

Does Garner get the feels from the “sad” activities or the “sad” brands? Having traveled a bit, I know fast food joints can be thriving social space outside of metro areas due to long open hours and free wi-fi, esp in areas where few or limited social amenities exist, and esp for retired folks.  To me this reads like a pretty fun list activities for an older person or hell even me. Fishin, ducks, movie night and coffee talk?  Sign me up, hon.

Again, there might be some prevailing tone in the source material that shades this content with sadness, but what I read from this reviewer is that being an older human is hard for the rest of us youngsters to see and both Ms. Lee and her unauthorized biographer should keep their voices down about it.

Which brings me to my question…yo, is this ageist?

I’d say yes: Garner is projecting his own negative and condescending assumptions about late life onto Harper Lee’s. It reveals more about him than it does about the author.