Sunday 17 April 2011

O is for Old Age

It's only since I've reached the hinterlands of old age that I've realised just how dismissively we/they are treated.

For a start, there are the jokes. Zimmer frames*, deafness, confusion - you name it, it's ok to joke about it. Not gays, not ethnic minorities, not the handicapped. Oh no. You mock them at your peril. But the old are fair game. Apart from anything else, they're unlikely to fight back.

In our society, the old become invisible; the wallpaper against which the lives of younger people are played out. In Japan, on the other hand, the old are considered to be society's treasures. They are valued and appreciated. But not here. Here, they are sidelined, ignored; considered at best an inconvenience, and at worst a nuisance.

But we (they) can fight back. Dye our hair, paint our toenails (if we can still reach them), refuse to conform to the sterotype. Ride a horse, join your grandchildren on the trampoline (I do both, notwithstanding my splendid new hip joint). Don't let the buggers wear you down.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to book a one-way ticket to Japan.

*The picture is of an inflatable zimmer frame. How hillarious is that?


  1. How I enjoyed this, there are lots of jokes kind and un kind about old age which I think is needless/
    I am the other side of 60 and am enjoying life, I am pleased I have reach this far, my husband wasn't so lucky.
    A wonderful letter O

  2. Age is a funny old thing. I can remember when I was eighteen I wanted to die before I was thirty - as I thought thirty ancient! Glad I didn't!

    I don't view myself as old - but know others (perhaps thirty year olds?) will do.

    I wonder when I will feel old?

    Anna :o]

  3. Yes, and it also seems acceptable for fat people to be the butt of jokes (notice how in movies the dumb blonde used to be the joke, then the black person/gay person, now "the joke" in a movie is usually an obese person.) I see how people treat my Mom who, at 77, is not quite as incandescently brilliant as she was at 70, but is still brighter and cleverer than most of the arrogant youth who dismiss her. Makes me mad.
    Judy, South Africa

  4. I often wish we accorded our elderly the same respect as in other countries. Meanwhile, I'm with you, Frances, that's why I go to tap dancing!

  5. Great post Frances, and so true. I was brought up with Grandparents around, they taught me so much and our children followed on the same. It makes for a much more stable society when the elders are listened to and respected. In an ideal world.

  6. I had so much more to say aboaut this, but haven't had much time (grandchildren have intervened). That's one of the problems with the Challenge; some rather poor posts slip through the net!

    But thanks everyone for the comments. Rosemary - I'd love to tap dance but have never got round to it.Good for you!

  7. having just had another birthday old age is fast approaching so why is it that in my head I'm still a teenager?

  8. Nice post, Frances. Of course, I'm a bit I love old people. I agree with you, our society lack respect for the elderly. Children and youngsters are rude to the elderly, and I understand in part because that has not been taught at home. I have seen some residents being abandoned by their families. As if they were just a burden. I have also seen a lot of fights among family members about the resident's moneys and assets. The elderly person is not important, but what they can take from that person, before he/she goes permanently into a nursing home.
    I'm glad we have elderly advocacy programs, and the universities are now expanding the areas of gerontology. I have two social work students doing practicum in our facility. I tried to get students 6 years ago, and no student was interested in nursing homes. I guess students are now being encouraged to explore that area. :-))


  9. Colette, I think we're all teenagers in our heads. That's what makes it so hard!

    Doris, I think your patients/clients are very fortunate. But I do think that some elderly people just let it happen, My own father allowed old age to take him over in his early seventies; gave up walking anywhere, gave up reading, gave up crosswords; all the things that had kept his mind young. And at 75 he died. The older we get, the more effort we have to put into staying as young as possible. Having said that, the rudeness and the cruelty and the jokes are appalling, and are dished out by people - usually young - who seem to have no idea that one day they too will be old.