Too many 55+ adults experience the form of bias known as Ageism. As all forms of bias, it is wrong and older adults should speak up when they see it happening.
When I turned senior citizen, I was of the mindset that there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well embrace my age, my senior years and continue to enjoy an active lifestyle as before. To make it easier on my psyche, I considered myself a lady of junior-senior status. I still do, even though six years have passed in the intervening years.
But, honestly, nothing aggravates me more than being called “Dear” or “Honey” or “Hon”. This happens regularly while I am out shopping, in restaurants, or at events. But I often reminded myself that at least, so far, no one has called me “Young Lady”. When you consider, no one would ever think of using endearments for minorities, or for people with disabilities, why for seniors? That would be impetuous and rash! But for the older folks, for some reason, it is socially acceptable and considered a compliment if an endearment follows a comment. I personally find it condescending and patronizing. I really believe that it is age that makes this practice so common.
Let’s consider one branch of the service industry, eating out, for example. My gal pals and I would sit down for an anticipated, long conversational lunch, and more often than not, our server would pleasantly enquire “and what are we having today?” We? Can’t answer that for you, but I know what I’m having! I try to keep the chill and the attitude out of my voice. Be pleasant! Be patient! I remind myself.
Another experience I had in another branch of the service industry, the bank! A little while ago I asked a simple question about Corporate Investments. The 30 something agent was taken aback by the question that required a complicated response. So after a few moments of thought, he proceeded to annunciate his words slowly, carefully and with a bit higher volume than was necessary ”THE MARKET IN THE CORPORATE PORTFOLIO”…Really? You can guess the rest. I can hear you just fine. Thank you! My brain can still process the information adequately. It was possibly my numerous “character” lines around the eyes that gave me away. I rather think of them as “laugh” lines, anyways. I wear my age with pride as it is not an easy task to be me since it took me years of navigating through the trials and tribulations of life to get here.
Another example of ageism I have experienced was at facial treatments. Granted, this is the esthetician’s job, to sell me her products, but she always asks me for the strength of anti-wrinkle cream I would need. I find myself staring at the well-stocked shelves full of anti-ageing creams, anti-wrinkle serums and even paddles to smooth out the wrinkles. Our conversations always centre around relevant scientific experiments and the benefits of dermatology. Seriously, all I came for is a relaxing facial that will moisturize and relax my skin. Nothing more! Nothing less! I would like to continue to keep my “laugh” lines.
And finally, my favourite peeve is at my favourite place, the gym. I have been exercising, working out, boot camping and generally going to the gym for the last 50 years. I still have a personal trainer who fine-tunes my moves a few times a year. But for some reason, the odd trainer will monitor me as she passes by me and is occupied with someone else’s routine, but she will still correct my movements on the equipment and will even gesture to me to go slowly. Hey! I have been doing this for the better part of my life and I have been doing just fine! I have not been huffing and puffing! Nevertheless, I am told to “take it easy, Hon.” Why? There is nothing new in this routine, I am just a bit older. I know many 70-year-olds who are in good shape. They use a variety of exercising equipment, they run, they walk, they bike, they play tennis and they even run marathons. Ordinary people, doing ordinary things! Age should not stop them or me, for that matter.
Libby Znaimer sums up my sentiments on this subject best when she concludes her reflections with; “so let’s stop making a fuss when our elders do the ordinary. And make sure you really know who you’re calling ‘Dear’.”