Yo, Is This Ageist?
March 29, 2016 5:00 AM   Subscribe

“Our society is so ageist that younger people don’t want to sit next to older people because they think they’re boring, and older people might think they have nothing to say to younger people." So says Ashton Applewhite, a blogger that has just published a book about ageism.
posted by valkane (94 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Okay, this seems pretty cool and true. I guess I don't think of it as being in the same realm as sexism and racism, but it does seem sort of... phenomenologically impoverished to ignore and avoid older generations.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:04 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's because you probably never experienced it. I lost jobs because of it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:08 AM on March 29, 2016 [74 favorites]


Oh really? Me, too. Why don't we start you out (and keep you there indefinitely) part time (at crap pay with no benefits) because you're 23 and we can't trust you to get to work by 8:15 every day.
posted by phunniemee at 5:13 AM on March 29, 2016 [15 favorites]


I think that one of the many, many very insidious things about ageism is that it absolutely does work both ways: there are ways in which younger people get dismissed, exploited, and screwed over, and there are also ways in which older people do. Add that the fact that it's extremely intersectional: it's easy to look at privileged older people or, conversely, privileged younger people and not see the ways in which ageism hits less-privileged members of both groups. Like, not all old people are rich white dudes who get more powerful and distinguished with age. Not all young people are tech bros who are swimming in VC money and won't hire anyone over 27.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:18 AM on March 29, 2016 [104 favorites]


I lost jobs because of it.

I'm sorry to hear that; I hope you sued under the ADEA.

However, I guess I don't think the old as a class suffer from the same kinds of discrimination as women or non-whites. For instance, the old have 47x more wealth than the young, while Blacks have 16x less wealth than whites. That can be true even if there are differences among each group that cause some of the old to be significantly worse off (especially given their membership in a group of traditionally wealthier people).

Plus, of course, there's access to two massive entitlement programs in the form of Social Security and Medicare, which are unlikely to be available in the same form to younger people because they've been systematically underfunded by older generations.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:23 AM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Nice post. One thing always amazes is the generational gap. Having observed this for years and compared the effects with other cultures; Man, in this country, as a (w)hole, we suck.

As an example, WIWY, the phrase "that sucks" said at home would garner a rebuke then a mild slap, at school, 100 something-somethings on the blackboard. (Rock based writing surface for educational purposes)

Ah, the pre-seeding jet pack angst that is fed and treaded upon by diffidence.
posted by clavdivs at 5:24 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just last week I was told that laughing bitterly about being old was a micro-aggression against the young people I was sitting with. I told them to suck it up because getting old is a macro-aggression.
posted by srboisvert at 5:25 AM on March 29, 2016 [93 favorites]


I am an old lady now who goes to the gym several days a week, and have made friends with people older, younger, different races and nationalities there. We are there because we have something in common and all learn from and respect each other. Ages range from a fascinating woman in her 90s in water exercise to trainers in their 20s and everything in between.

When I was younger I had to go to my mom's 60th or so class reunion, because my dad was sick and couldn't make it. I dreaded what I thought would be listening to old people go on about their aches, pains and illnesses and their conservative political views. What I found was something really different. It was as if everyone reverted back to high school, talking about what it was like in the 1930's depression era, who had nice clothes and cars, who was really smart or goodlooking etc and where they all went from there. It was interesting and very human and I did not feel at all out of place listening to their stories, also saw my mom in a different light as the mischievous bright girl that she was.

Both old people and young people do well to listen to each other without preconceived notions. It can be a pleasant surprise.
posted by mermayd at 5:30 AM on March 29, 2016 [45 favorites]


So we have this little Three Billy Goats Gruff book from nineteen-dippity-three that my two-year-old is currently obsessed with. The bridge troll is introduced as "an ugly old troll." And I read it that way the first few times, and then decided that I ought to elide the "ugly," because why should it matter if the troll is ugly? And then I started to elide the "old," because why should it matter if he's old?

So now I just call him the "mean" troll, although I'd happily take other suggestions (such as the suggestion to conveniently lose this book).
posted by uncleozzy at 5:37 AM on March 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, no matter how much getting older might suck it is, in my opinion, vastly superior to the alternative...
posted by jim in austin at 5:39 AM on March 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


When I hear someone in their late twenties say "I am so old," as they dread approaching 30, I let them know that they have no idea, and that they should go talk to my 86-year-old mother to find out what old really is.
posted by haiku warrior at 5:43 AM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


I worry a fair bit about how employment will work for me going forward. There is a point in the next ten years or so when I'll start looking "old" in job terms, and I know my options are going to tighten considerably.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:43 AM on March 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


You speak the truth, jim in austin.
posted by haiku warrior at 5:44 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hope you sued under the ADEA.

Funny you should say that because one of my jobs involved helping people explore the possibility of such suits. They are extremely difficult to win. (And to afford the legal and investigatory staff to back up your claim to discrimination.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:53 AM on March 29, 2016 [30 favorites]


I'm sorry to hear that; I hope you sued under the ADEA.
No offense, but this seems a little flippant. It is extremely hard to prove any kind of discrimination, even though there is a lot of evidence that discrimination exists. When experimenters send out identical resumes for high-status positions, they find that Caitlin is more likely to get an interview than Shanika, and Tom is more likely to get an interview than either of the other two. But in the real world, no two resumes are exactly alike, and hiring managers can always find a way to justify why they called Tom first and Shanika not at all. Shanika might have a vague sense that she's not getting called as much as similarly-qualified white women, let alone similarly-qualified white men, but she's going to have a tough time proving it. And it's the same with age discrimination. There is a reason that people in their 40s and 50s are told to leave dates off of their resumes. There are reasons, structural and otherwise, that middle-aged unemployed people take longer to find jobs than younger unemployed people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:54 AM on March 29, 2016 [114 favorites]


I worry a fair bit about how employment will work for me going forward. There is a point in the next ten years or so when I'll start looking "old" in job terms, and I know my options are going to tighten considerably.

My wife and I are both in our early 50s. She is looking for a new job now because her company is shutting down, and we were both a little worried that she might find it difficult to get a new job, but so far she has had no trouble at all getting interviews. But she works a straight-up desk job where there isn't much penalty for being older and a lot of upside to having experience. I'm thinking about looking for a new job once she has settled into a new one, but I work in IT support and expect to find it a much tougher go. Personally, I feel like this is the last time either of us will be able to compete for "real" jobs before being relegated to shit like part-time retail, even though neither of us will be able to retire for another 20 years.
posted by briank at 6:06 AM on March 29, 2016 [13 favorites]


jet pack angst

This is going to be my new all old men emo band name.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:08 AM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Okay, this seems pretty cool and true. I guess I don't think of it as being in the same realm as sexism and racism...

...sigh, why not? Even if the results aren't precisely the same (they aren't between sexism and racism either) and even though there is a high degree of intersectionality, can we not agree that ageism is something quite a bit stronger than "nice to avoid".

I'll say, mildly, that even here I have heard people make a case for why they discriminate against older people at work and boast about the young average age of their company. That should give you some idea how pervasive it is. And if you want to have some idea how damaging it is, talk to the 50+er who has been laid off and has no chance of finding a job...
posted by frumiousb at 6:13 AM on March 29, 2016 [20 favorites]


No offense, but this seems a little flippant.

Comparing ageism to racism seems much more flippant to me.

At base, every old person had a shot at being young, but no Black person gets a chance to try being white.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:15 AM on March 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


I started reading Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache mystery series last week and it's shocking how interesting the older characters are. The young ones seem tentative and unformed, while the older ones (50-80somethings) have just seen enough shit to have definitive opinions.

I was thinking about how teen romance loves a vampire. Why? Because they are 300+ years old and have these high-drama complicated backstories of love and loss. Well, we have those people walking among us right now. They're called old people. I think there's a lot of room for literary exploration there - the person you were at 30, in a body that's 80, with 80 years of memories to draw on.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:17 AM on March 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


> At base, every old person had a shot at being young

Only at a very shallow approximation, really. For instance, when I was young and in college, one of my most interesting, intelligent, and attentive classmates was a 50-year-old who grew up disadvantaged and had only just scraped together enough security to go to school.

His shot at being young was spent clawing out of poverty. Mine was spent relatively well supported, allowing me to graduate fresh-faced at the "right" age. I hope he had as many opportunities as I did, but I very much doubt it.
posted by gilrain at 6:21 AM on March 29, 2016 [44 favorites]


[Folks, it's not a contest. Discussing ageism doesn't somehow negate other forms of bigotry. If you don't think it's worth discussing, please find another thread that suits better.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:22 AM on March 29, 2016 [80 favorites]


Ageism is interesting because it is something that develops rather than something you're born with. So it's one of those things where it really is true to say "you don't know now", and it's endlessly frustrating to hear flippant stuff from people who are still in their twenties/early thirties.

I look younger than I am - in flattering light, or in situations where people don't expect to find an Old, or in casual clothes, a LOT younger. I'm forty-one; I am often in situations where people think I'm 30ish. I have watched people start treating me more dismissively when they realize how old I actually am. This happens both at work and in social settings. It's absolutely a real thing.

If people think you're old, they think you're stupid. They think your politics are terrible. If you're female or read as female, they identify you with their mothers, and since many people in their twenties basically hate their mothers, and since we as a society hate mothers, you come in for a lot of crap there. If you're female or read as female, they expect you to be responsible yet self-effacing, to be interested in their problems but to have none of your own, to politely pretend that you have no sexuality (because sexuality is gross when it's the Olds), etc etc.

I think that the whole "it's just like racism" thing is a total derail and a terrible headline for the article. No two oppressions are alike; all oppressions are intersectional (which is why rich white older straight men don't have such a bad time of it, etc). Something doesn't have to be as bad as racism to be worth discussion or to impact people's lives.

If anything the argument ought to be made that because we all experience ageism, it should give us the ability to imagine oppressions that we don't experience. It sucks to be dismissed or condescended to because of ageism, it must also be pretty terrible to face other forms of discrimination.
posted by Frowner at 6:23 AM on March 29, 2016 [105 favorites]


Disability that comes with age is real disability, even though the people who suffer it may have had a chance at being able-bodied in their youth.

Discrimination that comes with age is real discrimination, even though the people who suffer it may have had a chance at not being discriminated against in their youth.
posted by edheil at 6:27 AM on March 29, 2016 [28 favorites]


Some days it's so hard to not get disillusioned. I'm 43 and wanting to get out of my current workplace and into something more tech related. I've been working my butt off to add skills to my current skill set and experience. I've been told over and over by those already in the field that what I'm doing is great and is needed. I can't help but thinking, yes, so they say but most saying it are all younger and male. I know it's going to just be more difficult to get in doors because, older and female.

Makes me just want to say screw it and start my own company, with my own policies for hiring. I think I'll name it ODD Tech. (Old Dudettes and Dudes)
posted by Jalliah at 6:42 AM on March 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


While ageism is real, these days, there is also a real class tension mixed in with a lot of age-based tension.

The youngs are "millennials," stereotyped as lazy. The olds are "baby boomers," who benefited from a surging economy.

There's definitely benefit to learning from the lessons of one's elders, but too often, these lessons are given in a dismissive manner. It took YEARS for my wife's family to stop telling her that she'd change her mind about wanting children. Youth opinions and beliefs are consistently belittled as "phases" or ill-informed.

Of course, we choose our friends, and we're born into families, so it does make sense that we have a harder time finding like-minded friends outside of our age cohort. Society further enforces this. We're admonished at all the time to "act our age," and for every Buzzfeed article celebrating "cool older folks," there's a million *tsks.*

I'm middle-aged now, and I'm still getting some of the dismissive treatment that is directed toward youth and inexperience. I have yet to experience the other side of the coin, but I hope when I get older, I won't be so dismissive. There are plenty of ways to share one's life experience without dismissing youths or assuming they want your advice.
posted by explosion at 6:44 AM on March 29, 2016 [14 favorites]


Regarding Social Security being underfunded by old people, this misses the point by a lot. Sure, denizens of the US House and Senate are generally over 40 in the former case and 60 in the latter, but it is a ideological and policy effect, not due to age. There has been a multiyear attempt by conservatives to defund and starve entitlement programs (as they term them). They hate Medicare as well.

As a soon-to-be eligible person for these entitlements, I have never understood the short-sighted majority support for the GOP by my peers and elders. Yes, there's a lot of the "I've got mine, Jack" but some of it is delusional as demonstrated by the older persons who were demanding "Hands off my Medicare" during the Obamacare debate.

Nevertheless, there is an argument to be made about reduced abilities of older workers. In my field, there are many still working after age 60 or 65 when a good argument can be made for that group being less up to date and less cognitively sharp. There is already mandatory continuing education and testing/recredentialling/relicensing. The idea of neurocognitive testing in workers over 60 is just beginning to be broached in professional journals. This is not ageist but, IMO, a reasonable public policy.
posted by sudogeek at 6:53 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


“Some old people suck” is not a rebuttal to the existence of ageism. I mean, I think some of the examples on the blog are a bit silly (the blockbuster tag on the keyring was a hilarious burn on blockbuster, not making fun of the person who had it), but that doesn’t mean ageism isn’t a real problem.

Elderly people being treated as disposable inconveniences who should shut up and get out of the way is a serious problem.

I read this awful story this morning. This woman was treated as a roadblock rather than a human being because of her age and frailty, and now she is dead. Ageism runs rampant in our elder care institutions (he's almost dead, just put him wherever).
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:03 AM on March 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


I remember vaguely noticing the moment in my life when I started to become invisible because I'm middle-aged. For me, invisibility is largely driven by capitalism--clothes are cut for women whose bodies have not begun to sag and spread, rather than for women like me whose body has begun to settle. Media is aimed at younger sensibilities. I get "do you need help lifting that, ma'm?" and then no further interaction from people in public. The only things that matter about a women in her 40's to the machine that is America are things that don't apply to me (her children, her desperation post-divorce, your surprise that she's attractive).

But I spend a lot of my time with my mother, who is 73 and while people often remark that she "doesn't look that old" (whatever the fuck that means, people say that about me and they're wrong. I look pretty much exactly like every one of my 45 year old friends), Mom looks "senior". And because of it, she is literally invisible in public. She's not particularly slow-moving, not at all infirm, but people shove past her, don't ring her up in stores, cut in line, talk to me rather than to her. They even don't answer when she talks directly to them. People are dicks but I don't think they even see that they are doing it. Something about the physical hallmarks of age creates panic in strangers when they are called upon to treat an old stranger like an unremarkable human being.

Getting old is deeply scary in some ways. I'm afraid of infirmity--either mine or my parents. I worry about coping and caring and surviving through it. I ache a lot more than I did just five years ago and I can't bring myself to go out late at night nearly as much as I did, no matter how much fun I have when I'm there. And that makes me sad, or sometimes angry, and I wonder if that's why people ignore the visibly old people around them--to avoid being sad or angry about the small effects of being older they already feel in themselves.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:07 AM on March 29, 2016 [33 favorites]


I think that one of the things that gets lost in discussions of social security and medicare is that middle-aged people, specifically, face certain fairly specific vulnerabilities. If you can make it to 65 without getting sick or having an extended period of unemployment, then you may well be ok. But God help you if you get really sick when you're in your 50s, unless you have a lot of resources and a really good support system. If you lose your job when you're 55, you may spend the next ten years spending down everything you've saved for retirement, and at 65 you'll be trying to find a place you can afford to rent with your social security check and whatever you earn at the minimum-wage job you manage to pick up. There are ways that ageism hits people over 65, too, but it seems to me that it's particularly rough on people who are too old to be young but too young to qualify for programs for senior citizens.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:14 AM on March 29, 2016 [34 favorites]


Is this ageist?
posted by bukvich at 7:17 AM on March 29, 2016


The idea of neurocognitive testing in workers over 60 is just beginning to be broached in professional journals.

And it's a terrible idea. Judge people on their work product, don't add more tests.

Believe me, if there's mandatory cognitive testing of people at age sixty, there will be slippage on that policy until we're all getting tested - even if you really believe that the Olds need to be kept in line, you won't be quite so happy when you're fired the minute you're good enough to do your job but not as good as you were on your last test.

What body do you believe will be capable of designing and administering these tests in a productive and unbiased way? What will happen if someone fails their test but their work product is fine? What happens if someone fails their test, period? Do they get fired on the spot? How will they live until retirement? What happens if someone is tested, their results are poor but their work is easy? Do you think employers won't use that as an excuse to deep-six people?

Anyone would think that the purpose of society was to make the most possible money for employers, not wellbeing of actual humans.

I have rarely heard an idea that makes my flesh creep so much as this "once you hit sixty you need to pass a cognitive test to keep your job" business.
posted by Frowner at 7:18 AM on March 29, 2016 [67 favorites]


Unless you're going to lower the retirement age to sixty, increase social security and add a lot of perks like subsidized housing and free healthcare, of course. In that case, test away and I'll retire at sixty on the nose. But I don't think that's what test-happy people are imagining.
posted by Frowner at 7:22 AM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yeah, completely agree with the serious ick factor when it comes to neurocognitive testing based on age. Once we accept it for ageing, then it's a small step to testing women during menopause or even pregnancy-- esp. since cognitive impairment is a folk side effect of both. Do we test if someone has had a concussion in their medical history? Two concussions?

I don't like it, and don't think it's even remotely appropriate. Brr.
posted by frumiousb at 7:22 AM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Seriously, these last few years I've tried to adjust to the idea that I will need to kill myself as soon as my health goes. I just don't see how I can make it otherwise - how can I stay employable past fifty or so? How can I expect to avoid all of life's problems until I'm sixty-seven?
posted by Frowner at 7:25 AM on March 29, 2016 [14 favorites]


When I hear someone in their late twenties say "I am so old," as they dread approaching 30, I let them know that they have no idea, and that they should go talk to my 86-year-old mother to find out what old really is.

Thanks for totally dismissing the anxiety that comes with getting older. That's just one of the reasons you see for younger people don’t want to sit next to older people because I don't want my every thought and comment to be dismissed because I am younger than you. And its double bad if you're younger and female.

Don't want to be treated as someone's parent, then quit acting like one. I have no problem hanging out with older people and I love to hear stories of their youth/grandkids/etc. but the key is to not dismiss me because of my age, or tell me I need to eat better, or act like you're worried about me and I don't know how the world works.

(Of course this comes with the caveats that people are assholes and you could be a totally not condescending older person and people will still treat you like shit. Sorry about that. All I can do is my part and not be an asshole.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:31 AM on March 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile, there's a teacher at my school who's well past retirement age but keeps extending it for one more year because of the new educational tech that she wants to teach... she's running Minecraft Edu in her classroom, and all her kids do work and projects mostly on iPads, laptops, whatever they have. If she retired today, she'd make her full salary, which is over $100K, but she doesn't want to and no one can make her. Which is good, because she seriously drives tech adoption at my school.

Oh, and she'd fail a neurocognitive test, I'm pretty sure. She's like the absent-minded professor.

Union jobs, man. The pay's maybe not as good as the private sector, but I never worry about losing my job.
posted by Huck500 at 7:32 AM on March 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Don't want to be treated as someone's parent, then quit acting like one.

Believe me, I am the least maternal human you can imagine - and I still get "treated like someone's mom" by younger people. "Older women should be maternal or invisible" is a pretty standard part of misogyny, not some kind of result of older AFAB people even paying attention to what people are eating/wearing/doing.

What's especially hilarious about this is that I am around a volunteer project (full of anarchists!) where the backstop person is in their early sixties. Watching people come in the door, dismiss me because I'm visibly not twenty or punk rock anymore and then seeing them get directed to our sixtyish gender-non-conforming AFAB volunteer is pretty sweet. Want to book a show at our space? You have to book it through them. Want to learn how to use the projector? Ditto. Again, pretty sweet.
posted by Frowner at 7:39 AM on March 29, 2016 [34 favorites]


The field is medical practice, if that was not obvious from the post.

Neurocognitive abilities such as physical stamina, ability to remain alert and function at a high level when sleep deprived, and ability to perform procedures which require attention, good eyesight, and fine motor skills are important. Yes, there are no programs to test these things, much less testing that has been show to be predictive or related in any way to quality or safety, but that does not mean such assessments are anathema. (And don't get me started on current "quality" metrics.)

Many studies have demonstrated the uneven quality and application of medical care. All of us, as potential consumers of medical care, should be in favor of continuous improvement and monitoring of practitioners.
posted by sudogeek at 7:40 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thank you for this post! The book looks super interesting, and the blog is great too.

Joining a UU church, interacting with my fellow congregants and building community and friendships with them has really opened my eyes a lot. I love hanging out with these wonderful, funny, and interesting people who just so happen to be my parents' age or older. If I didn't join the church, I definitely wouldn't have gone out of my way to look for friendships with people not within, say, 5-10 years of my age. It's just not who I would consider my peer group. I wouldn't have considered myself to be ageist, but I am a lot more open-minded now than a year or two ago.
posted by Fig at 8:03 AM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


In the military it's up or out at age 55, and similarly for pilots, even firemen. One can set an arbitrary age when people are considered unfit for duty. Or, one can recognize that people are different and some are robust and functional in their employment beyond that age. That means testing of some sort.

Here in FL, I think neurocognitive and not just eyesight testing needs to be done for drivers licenses. That begs the question of what sort of test is an appropriate or reproducible neurocognitive test.
posted by sudogeek at 8:13 AM on March 29, 2016


I'm in my early 40s. I'm not actively looking for work, but just last week I was talking with my sister (a professional recruiter) about how it was probably time I start thinking about removing the first decade or so of experience from my LinkedIn profile and resume and maybe not actually listing specific graduation dates, leaving my age a little more vague.

I work in a very niche sector of the tech world, very much an "everybody knows everybody" industry. One thing that has become a scary as hell cautionary tale for me is seeing a few people who were absolute superstars when I got into the industry twenty or so years ago who are now inching closer to retirement age bouncing from job to job, each one less prestigious than the one before. The Jack Lemon character from "Glengarry Glen Ross" may have been fictional, but was obviously based on real observation.

Someone upthread aluded to this, but ageism is also one of those prejudices where there is still at least some social acceptability to practice openly. I worked a trade show last year where the president of a start-up stopped by my booth and asked me if I knew of any sales folks who were looking to make a move as his company was looking to hire. The one thing he noted rather openly was, "We are looking to lower the average age of our staff a bit" (the small staff of this company was made up entirely of people in their late 50s/early 60s), in a way that I'm sure he never would have dared imply that he was looking to hire more men or more white people.
posted by The Gooch at 8:33 AM on March 29, 2016 [17 favorites]


Neurocognitive abilities such as physical stamina, ability to remain alert and function at a high level when sleep deprived, and ability to perform procedures which require attention, good eyesight, and fine motor skills are important.

Kind of like how we require airline pilots to be able to perform well while under the influence of powerful hallucinogens?
posted by indubitable at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


Fig's post about joining a Unitarian Universalist church and getting to know their fellow congregants reminds me: I can't remember where I read it, but I do recall reading that very few people who are in their 60's and above have children in their social networks who are not close kin. And I agree, we in the U.S. at least, live in an age-segregated society. Church is one of the few places I can think of that is age-integrated across the board, from children to elders. I don't think people should have to attend church, but I wish there was a way to mix up the ages a bit more for everyone.

Classrooms are age-graded, college students who live on-campus are almost all in their late teens and early 20s. Workplaces do a bit better, but most still have an age range of 20s to early 60s, and then retirees usually socialize with other retirees and their own families. It takes some effort for someone in their 20's, say, to make friends with 50-year-olds. Most people socialize within their own age groups.

It's so easy to dismiss, condescend to, or hate old people when you don't really know any outside your own family. And if your family is dysfunctional, as many are, and all the oldsters in your network are dysfunctional, mean-spirited bigots - then it's dangerously easy to stereotype all old people as dysfunctional, bigoted, selfish, etc. (Just like it's easy to think that teenagers are monsters and kids are brats when you don't really know any, because there are none in your network.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:49 AM on March 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


Joining a UU church, interacting with my fellow congregants and building community and friendships with them has really opened my eyes a lot.

It's interesting to hear you say that, because I'm been fighting the lack of connection across generations for most of my career in churches. (My doctoral thesis focused on intergenerational religious education models.) Maybe UU churches are better than mainstream Christian denominations, but in much of the religious world church life is actively structured to keep you only with people of your generation. You go to kids' Sunday School with people of your age, then step-by-step graduate to youth group, college group, the singles' group, the young marrieds' group, up through whatever the popular euphemism is for the elderly members' group--PrimeTimers or Senior Saints or whatever. You can go to church for 80 years and be stuck with the same people that whole time. I'm convinced the results have been dreadful. Modern youth ministry is a huge failure by any measure, and I think it's because we never teach kids how to be part of the whole church, just the youth group. There's an enormous drop out rate after high school and again after college. Part of that is to be expected, as young people explore new ideas and test previous boundaries, but churches make it worse by only building close relationships intragenerationally. Once you age out of youth group, there's not much incentive to stick around. On the opposite end, there is a real crisis of older people feeling isolated and unheard. I interviewed for a pastor position a couple of weeks ago and something like half of the church members over 65 personally told me that they felt left out and ignored, and they hoped if I came to their church that I would listen to them. That's a pretty damning indictment of an organization that, in theory, has "love one another" as a major goal, but it is not at all uncommon. I'm not sure "ageism" is quite the right label for that, but there is a tremendous problem with lack of respectful communication between generations, and it causes me a lot of heartburn when churches make that worse instead of modeling a better way. (It also strikes me as weird that when churches have a dedicated minister for just one age group, it is always, every time, the teenagers, when the usually-larger over-65 group has just as much need for pastoral support.)

I'm glad your experience in the UU is better on that front than what I see among evangelical-ish Protestants.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:52 AM on March 29, 2016 [16 favorites]


I know it's going to just be more difficult to get in doors because, older and female.

Tell me about it. I'm 48, and I finished a track in front end web development through a respected online coding school in mid-2015. I went to several local hiring events specifically tailored toward hiring junior developers and filling entry-level jobs. I felt so overlooked. It got even worse when these potential employers found out I've been running a house cleaning business for years. Well, what was I supposed to do when I graduated with my accounting post-bac certificate in 2009, I was divorced and financially desperate, and pretty much no one was hiring because of the recession? It's as if my intelligence and nerd skills are completely negated because I do house cleaning for a living.

These experiences, plus many others I don't want to get into, were so depressing that I've given up on getting into web development as a career. Now I'm working with staffing agencies and trying to get hired as a bookkeeper. At least I stand a better chance of getting hired for that kind of work at my age.

Last week I was forced to take time off from my house cleaning work and from job hunting because of tarsal tunnel syndrome. I really can't afford the time off, but I can't afford not to be able to walk without pain, either. My foot is feeling somewhat better this week, but I'm terrified that my body is going to give out, and that struggling and scraping by financially will be "the new normal" for the rest of my life, as it has been ever since my divorce.
posted by velvet winter at 9:04 AM on March 29, 2016 [16 favorites]


I prefer hanging out with older people. They have better stories and don't care so much about impressing and outdoing eachother.
posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


Joining a UU church, interacting with my fellow congregants and building community and friendships with them has really opened my eyes a lot.

It's interesting to hear you say that, because I'm been fighting the lack of connection across generations for most of my career in churches.

My experience--in the 1990s--attending a Catholic church while growing up was definitely more geared towards intergenerational experiences, but that may also have been informed by the fact that my grandmother lived with us so we socialized with her and her friends at church as well. There were definitely programs that were specifically for the kids, but I think the overall involvement was broader--from the lay people who worked as lectors (I was one when I was a young teenager and there were lectors well into their 70s & 80s) or deacons or ministers, to the choir, to the huge swath of volunteers necessary to keep the annual fun fair or church dinners running. Children, families, elders, all attended masses together, too, not having kids go off to youth services while the other folks stay for the mass itself (though there was a space where you could take fussy kids or nursing babies or the like where you could still hear the mass being piped in).
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:06 AM on March 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read this awful story this morning. This woman was treated as a roadblock rather than a human being because of her age and frailty

I didn't get that at all from that story. I gather she had been renting the house for a long time, and the new owner wanted to sell it? Not clear on what that has to do with ageism.
posted by Hoopo at 9:12 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Funny this talk of the UU. I grew up in the UU long enough ago it was still just the U. I particularly remember two elderly gentlemen. Clarence Felter was a card-carrying member of the IWW, performed slight of hand and had irises like polished aluminum. He lived in a wild, overgrown half acre in the middle of town and left small snacks in his mailbox for the mailman. His best buddy was Mr. Roth, a spitting imagine of the older Einstein. Both habitually wore berets. Both loved talking to the young members of the congregation. A departing minister was moved to tears when Clarence, a life long atheist and socialist, joined the church in his honor. If nothing else, the UU showed me that being old need not mean being stereotypical...
posted by jim in austin at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Nevertheless, there is an argument to be made about reduced abilities of older workers. In my field, there are many still working after age 60 or 65 when a good argument can be made for that group being less up to date and less cognitively sharp.

A "good argument" for which you naturally offer absolutely zero evidence. The boss I had who recently had to retire at age 67 for health issues entirely unrelated to cognition was no less "up to date" and/or "cognitively sharp" than anyone half his age and probably had most people, including people in his age cohort, beat by marathon miles when it came to intellect, clarity of thought, and almost everything else you'd ever want to see in someone as a worker and a contributor to the common enterprise, including, I might add, the best sense of humor about getting older (and about everything else) I've ever encountered in my life.

He took with him a hell of a lot of institutional memory, wealth of experience, and pure knowledge about his field that we'll never get back in someone younger.
posted by blucevalo at 9:29 AM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's posts like these that make me realize how cool my neighborhood is. Every Friday night we have a standing hangout at my neighbor's house. If it's cold we congregate in the heater-warmed garage, and when the temp outside is comfortable we pitch our chairs out by the fire pit. Everyone brings their (usually alcoholic) beverage of choice and just talks and laughs and hangs out 'til sometimes 1 or 2 in the morning. The group ranges from 5 to 15 people, and consists of a smattering of neighbors, all the way from a 7 year old girl to more than one couple in their 70s. One of the couples in their 70s show up every Friday, rain or shine, and it wouldn't be the same without them.
posted by three easy payments and one complicated payment at 9:41 AM on March 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hoo boy. Ageism is real, complicated, and very difficult to compare and contrast with other forms of discrimination. Also, it represents a lot of my job. I work in a retirement community (not a nursing or old folks' home!), and I'm 29. I spend SO MUCH TIME working against discrimination against my residents; it's literally a part of my job description to identify and reduce ways that our staff and business practices unconsciously discriminate against residents. I also spend SO MUCH TIME processing the ageism that my residents broadcast to myself and the rest of the staff.

I am very, very liked by the residents that I work with, and they often tell me that by telling me that I am 'so different than other young people'. My hard work, my intellectualism, my positive attitude, etc, are all held up explicitly as being exceptions from the norm of my contemporaries. And that drives me batty. Some of my contemporaries are my friends, and all of my friends work insanely hard. They are all good people. There are undoubtedly lazy, cruel 20 and 30-somethings, but I can't imagine that these are generational traits. And just as much, I have residents who are cruel, who are lazy, who are dishonest. In my (anecdotal) experience, the 80-100 set has much the same personality distribution as the 20-40 set.

What bugs me the most, honestly, is how important the narrative of my generation's failures is for the self esteem of some Greatest Generation members. Snake people face unique circumstances, mostly economic, which make some previously optimal choices less optimal, and which in many ways absolutely restricts or redefines the concept of success that my residents pursued. But many older people I meet, from baby boomers on up, can't say, 'I worked hard and you work hard and we all work hard together'; it has to be a better-than narrative.

I'm rambling now, but tl;dr: I work with this shizz for a living, and I will be working with it much much more as I advance in my career, until the other side of discrimination comes back to get me. But even thinking about it and talking about it with a diverse range of ages and experiences EVERY DAY I struggle to untangle ageism from the intersections of class and race and gender and everything else. Ageism can't be pinned down in the same way some other forms of discrimination can be, but it affects everyone to some degree. Everyone discriminates, and everyone is discriminated against.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 9:45 AM on March 29, 2016 [20 favorites]


My anecdote: when I was an employment discrimination lawyer, the ONE time I had a case that had clear, documentary evidence of discrimination (e.g. a note saying "Don't hire this guy because of x") was an age discrimination case. In my experience, age and pregnancy are the two kinds of discrimination that people still feel free to engage in in the work place openly, and I'm not even talking unconscious discrimination.

With respect to comparing age to other kinds of discrimination: like everything else that is intersectional, age will impact minorities worse.
posted by yarly at 9:50 AM on March 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Snake people? What are snake people?
posted by SillyShepherd at 9:52 AM on March 29, 2016


Snake people.
posted by Etrigan at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2016


whatever. just get off my lawn.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:05 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Speaking from the bias of a 60-year-older, I see ageism in the transformation of the news media, especially newspapers. Staff reductions (via buy-outs) and the demand for essential skills ("new" media) disproportionately glean older employees from the newsroom. Sure, a mix of new blood is a good thing. But, dammit, a mature world view and work experience are at least as important. The best column I ever wrote stemmed from a tip from a newsroom vet about something he'd written 25 years earlier. Today, I wonder who 30-year-old reporters are turning to for guidance.

I suspect all types of businesses suffer from ageist attitudes. The difference is that the dearth of older staffers in the newsroom helps promote ageist attitudes everywhere.
posted by sixpack at 10:10 AM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


It seems like no one who is commenting has read the article. It's actually quite good, despite the title. Here are some good lines:

She calls it [ageism] a prejudice against our future selves, and like any prejudice, it is mired in ignorance.

This is what I meant above by "phenomenologically impoverished." The fact that ideally we will all grow old is a reason to change our own thinking about age. Someone up above suggested thinking of ageism through the lens of disability, and I think that's quite useful: the ways that we punish and disable those with different bodies are ways that we ourselves will suffer when we age. I'd say that this is what we see in the larger project of disability studies, where the primary ways in which disabilities come to be disabling are shown to be institutional and social. In that sense, hating the old while young is the best contact many of us will have with both sides of a discriminatory divide. And that will have effects that inhibit our flourishing! Like this great example:

But often, she says, ageism can also cause older people to turn against themselves.

“People don’t use hearing aids. People don’t use walkers and stay in their apartments because of the stigma. They would rather not walk or hear than look old.”


Anyway, it seems like a good project.

But it's still true that old Democratic voters have overwhelmingly chosen Hillary Clinton while the younger Democratic voters have sided with Bernie Sanders. It's still true that older voters are much more likely to be Republicans than younger voters. It's important to recognize that groups have interests and often pursue them at the expense of other groups, and the increasingly old Baby Boomers are much better at achieving their objectives (because there are more of them) than any other group in American politics. Some of the resentment is justified.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:11 AM on March 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


when I was in my late twenties, I applied for a career development program specific to profession and, though they liked my application enough to short list me, I was ultimately told I was a little too young for their guidelines, maybe try again in a few years (ie: I wasn't a thirty-something at a time when that was a "thing").

Maybe seven years later, my career having taken a few twist and turns in the meantime, I was again thinking of applying to the program (thinking that NOW was the time), but was advised by an insider not to bother ... because now the selection process was skewering younger (apparently, the shit had hit in the interim about excluding twenty-somethings).

Wish I had a firm conclusion to draw from all of this.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2016


I grew up in the UU long enough ago it was still just the U

Sidetrack, but: which U? There are some places that still have single U churches; I went to one in Washington DC.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:20 AM on March 29, 2016


There's going to be an interesting shift when my generation (the X) is increasingly the old people. As a group we are grumpy and independent but also very self-abnegating & anti-sentimentality (as the responses in this thread demonstrate).

I personally have a lot of goals for the next 20 years of my life but after that my number 1 goal is not to be an embarrassing burden. If at all possible I hope I can sacrifice my comfortable lifestyle to benefit my kids and younger people in general. I suspect I'm not alone in wanting to atone for the excesses & selfish policy decisions of previous generations.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Fortunately for Millenials 100% of Generation Xers polled today are eating a cheeseburger and drinking a shot of Paddys with lunch.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:22 AM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


I spent my twenties and early thirties working in the service industry, propping up my husband's business with my earnings, buying a home, raising my children. In my mid-thirties, seeing that my options were diminishing in that industry, I earned a diploma in software design. After graduation, it became quite evident that employers were not interested in hiring thirty-something women with children, especially in the IT department. So, I did contract work unrelated to my education, ran my husband's business, took odd jobs, and raised some goats and chickens. Then I got divorced, my husband continued to earn 70 dollars an hour for his time and I went to university.

In college, I went out of my way to defy ideas of what middle-aged women should be like. I was not self-effacing, I dressed flamboyantly (because I knew how easily I could become invisible), I asked a lot of questions, I refused to play 'mom' to my fellow students. I was horribly and desperately poor and had given up any idea of security to pursue my degree, yet I was perceived by my professors as a 'dabbler', a dilettante whose wide variety of life experiences counted for nothing. Most especially, my experiences as a mother were considered below worthless, even (perhaps most of all) in my feminist philosophy classes. The majority of the ageism I encountered did not come from my young colleagues, but from the faculty. I persevered and earned my diploma.

Two years on from that, I have applied for literally hundreds of jobs, from cleaning houses and working in retail, to public service and poverty advocacy (a cause I am passionate about). I have had five interviews, despite scraping dates from my resume and engaging the services of a resume consultant. In every one of these interviews, I could see from the expressions on the faces of my interviewer (all of whom were under forty) that my age and obvious poverty (bad teeth and cheap clothing) were going to disqualify me. I've been able to scout out a little freelance writing work (never enough to stop being poor) and odd jobs here and there. I live in fear of becoming homeless and everything I own is getting progressively shabbier. I will never be able to pay off my student loans. I still keep applying for jobs, but I've mostly given up hope of ever being able to earn a living wage.

Employers never see the advantages of hiring an older woman. I'm past the age of having relationship drama, crises with my children, and hangovers. I have experience and drive and ambition still. I am trying to write a novel, I read several books a week, I still keep up on my philosophical studies, I do advocacy work for young women in crisis. It's not enough to satisfy a workforce that sees youth and vitality as exploitable attributes and a society that expects women over forty to be everybody's mom.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2016 [40 favorites]


I remember vaguely noticing the moment in my life when I started to become invisible because I'm middle-aged.

My friends and I call it our "Romulan cloaking device" - though often this is just as much about being over 50 as it is about not being A-Gays.
posted by kanewai at 10:31 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fortunately for Millenials 100% of Generation Xers polled today are eating a cheeseburger and drinking a shot of Paddys with lunch. I wish. Man, do I wish.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:52 AM on March 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


Man, as a software engineer in his late 30s, I'm scared shitless of aging. One of the least awesome things about the software industry is the lack of room for advancement. Yes, there's a high starting salary, but where exactly are you supposed to go after Senior Software Engineer? Sure, there are positions like Lead Software Engineer and Principal Software Engineer, but exactly how many leaders do you need on a given team? And how many managers does a given team need? One thing I've found since entering the "Lead Software Engineer" echelon is exactly how many companies, in the very first stages of the interview process, say something to the effect of, "We have a very flat management structure here." It's supposed to sound like a good thing. I mean, hey, who likes having lots of bosses and bureaucracy? But when you think about it for more than a minute, what that really translates to is, "you ain't never getting promoted, ever."

And then you get to the onsite and those detestable whiteboard interviews. That style of interview strongly favors recent grads, who've spent the last 4-or-so years doing crap like inverting trees and analyzing sorting algorithms. The kind of stuff you pick up after years in the industry, e.g. how to write maintainable code, how to elicit requirements from unwilling/unprepared entities, how to pare down a product to its bare essentials to get a minimum viable product, how to deal with sometimes-difficult team dynamics -- you know, all the things involved in actually shipping code -- these are things that are barely even touched on in the interview process.

Not really sure what the answer is, which scares me. I look pretty young, but what happens when I start looking my age? I've dropped my first job from my resume, but my second job was actually a really valuable experience that I don't want to drop. I've done a good job keeping my skills current and my skillset portable. That's about all you can do, really. At this point in my career, I'd love to just pick a place and stay there forever. Dunno if anyplace still works like that. Seems like it's a good idea to avoid the more startupy startups. Even when I was in my 20s, I didn't want to work 50-80 hour weeks, and I still don't. So I was never really all that interested in those companies anyway.

I've definitely known engineers in their 50s. They seemed to be doing okay, mostly working at more-established companies. I hope I can be one of them someday, or maybe get a golden ticket someplace that actually promotes people and doesn't pride itself on its "flat management structure."

Either way, I'm really glad we're having this conversation about ageism, and I hope this conversation is a sign of things to come. The more that people are aware of ageism, perhaps the less okay they'll feel about passing on a candidate because they seem "overqualified" or have more than the requisite "5-10 years of experience."
posted by panama joe at 11:27 AM on March 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


And it's a terrible idea. Judge people on their work product, don't add more tests.

Yeah, no. Fuck that idea too.

Judge people who are accused of breaking the law. If you are a judge.
posted by srboisvert at 11:32 AM on March 29, 2016


Isn't judging performance sorta the thing that managers and supervisors are supposed to do?
posted by Slackermagee at 11:59 AM on March 29, 2016


At my last meetup, I sat down and made an innocuous remark to this guy who frowned and said he was listening to what this guy at a table behind me was saying. Who I could not hear at all. Which was why it was my last meet up. Apart being perfunctorily blown off by one person, I couldn't hear anyone. I'm just too old for meetups now.
posted by y2karl at 1:35 PM on March 29, 2016


I like young people! That is because nearly 87 all my friends and former colleagues are dead and I now I can say "things were better back then" and get odd looks.
posted by Postroad at 2:05 PM on March 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


Sidetrack, but: which U?

Ah, Unitarian. The Universalist leg was always much smaller and regional. All Unitarian churches entered the UUA but a number of the more fundamentalist Universalists remained apart. Essentially Unitarians denied the divinity of Jesus (and hence the trinity) and Universalists believed in the universal salvation of all souls...
posted by jim in austin at 2:54 PM on March 29, 2016


And, in last week's LA Times:
How millennials should deal with baby boomers at work
posted by TDIpod at 3:02 PM on March 29, 2016


I prefer hanging out with older people. They have better stories and don't care so much about impressing and outdoing each other.

I just wish you kids would stop going "so wait, nobody had any reception?" when I tell that story about when I jumped my car through a telephone pole when I was a kid, and knocked out every landline in the entire village.
posted by effbot at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's not easy for men who aren't rich and powerful either. People generally don't know what to make of you, especially if you're not 100% comfortable with or in compliance with the contemporary American culture's increasingly narrow, personal growth constraining, and aggression-orientated norms of masculinity.

I absolutely believe it's even worse for women, considering the overwhelming emphasis put on sexual attractiveness and youthfulness as the true locus of feminine power embraced, really, in varying forms on both extreme ends of the political spectrum. Men, too, though aren't really thought to be worth much after a certain age if they haven't achieved any significant material or political power.

Scoff at us older folk's complaints about the ubiquity and pervasiveness of ageism and the obsession with youth in our culture if you like, but unless you end up rich and politically well-connected, you'll feel it, too, one day.

Every little throw away slur about "old white guys" (and I occasionally use these slurs myself as a middle aged man because they're so commonplace and uncontroversial) that passes and goes unremarked--with the explicit use of "old" as a pejorative qualifier--makes it clear how much more accepting we are of ageism than other forms of bigotry and discrimination.

And here's the thing: we all get old eventually (except those of us who just aren't there anymore by the time we might), so it affects every group from the most privileged to the least, with further degrees of removal from power and privilege only serving as force multipliers to make its effects that much more severe and difficult to overcome.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:41 PM on March 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


Away from the thread all day, and so my first chance to respond LizBoBiz. I did not mean to be dismissive of the anxieties of getting older. They are very real. I vividly remember the depression that turning 30 brought on. And I don't say such things to younger people whom I do not know.

My point is that perspective is in order. At 86 my mother has lost the love of her life and two of her siblings. She takes care of her older brother who cannot care for himself, and I help him with showers. Her life expectancy is about 8 years at her age. I can expect about 30 years. You maybe another 60. Most of your doors are still open. Hers are essentially all shut. Her life is and has been good, but 90% of it is behind her. That is what it is like to be old.
posted by haiku warrior at 3:55 PM on March 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


I am 61 and I have worked implementing big business software for twenty years. I am definitely encountering ageism and outsourcing. I am competing with people who are much younger than I am and who are often not US-based. I don't want to retire yet, but I may be forced to.

I don't look my age. I don't look 27 anymore either. Most people put me at 10 to 15 years younger than I am. When my daughter and I are out together, people often think we are sisters. I don't have noticeably gray hair, where my daughter does.

I enjoy the maturity that has come with age. I like not riding a storm of emotions like I did when I was 20. I am proud of my knowledge and skills and the wisdom I bring to life. I am healthy and I don't feel much different than I did 30 years ago. I remember when my sister, who was 17 years older than I am, was 32. She seemed so old when I was 16.

P.S. Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements, they are insurance programs. I have been paying Social Security and Medicare premiums, in the form of payroll taxes, on all my earnings for the last 47 years. Fortunately, Social Security is not my only source of retirement income. It is for a surprising number of people.
posted by Altomentis at 4:07 PM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Great thread. I worry about age somewhat as I'm an over-fifty software engineer but at least there are quite a few of us where I work and we do just find keeping up with the younger engineers. The lead programmer on my team is at least ten years older than me and more than keeps up; he's one of the best Ruby programmers I know.

We'll see how the next fifteen years goes.
posted by octothorpe at 4:42 PM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


snake people

Just made the same point spontaneously the other night, I joined into the complaints citing an article I read about "those shallow"... from 1901. I'm post 20's by a bit and there have always been shallow idiots since I asked "why did he do that stupid thing" around age 9. And there are always really smart, kind, effervescent, effective folks at every age.

But I'm a software guy and have had interviews where I knew I wasn't a perfect fit but if I'd "fit in" a bit more it would have been overlooked. (If anyone knows an open minded shop in the Boston area....) There really is strength and power in diversity, the real hard problems are solved by a mix of new and established viewpoints.

And I don't think it's younger guys that mind someone older but someone in "management" that thinks that it would "bother" or stifle the mix or culture. But it's virtually impossible to catch someone or some company, HR have very proscribed and carefully generic decisions and someone needs to be beyond a superstar to refute a decision of "not a fit".
posted by sammyo at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2016


You know your clear from the 20th century ageism when the universal response to the phrase "Liver Pills" evokes confusion despite advertisements to the contrary.
posted by clavdivs at 6:32 PM on March 29, 2016


y2karl, I bought the book and have been reading it this afternoon. You're comments about the meetup are just what the author is talking about. Her thinking is that allowing jerks who dismiss you, or ambient noise levels that keep you from hearing easily, dissuade you from going out is allowing ageism to win.

So far, I'm fighting back.
posted by tizzie at 7:08 PM on March 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I spent a long time thinking I didn't like old people, until I realised that actually some of my good friends and most admired colleagues are in the age bracket I didn't think I liked. Like so many forms of discrimination, it's easy to think of the people you do like as "not really X" because they don't fit your stereotypes, when actually it's your stereotypes that need to change.

I think a lot of ageism is, as someone said up thread bound up with people's experience of their parents. It's pretty common for people to rebel against their families when they are young and to define themselves, their interests, and their values as different from those of their parents. For some people that is because their families are objectively terrible, and for others it's somewhere on the continuum of healthy individuation of their personalities and separating into a whole authentic person.

But anyway, at that point in your twenties or even thirties where you are defining yourself partly by not being like your parents, your primary experience of older people is probably still your parents, their friends (who in all probability are similar to your parents) and maybe a boss or two in the workplace, and it's likely your job at that age is not awesome either and your boss might be pretty terrible too.

So of course you end up thinking that all older people are not like you, because your feelings of adulthood and independence depend on you thinking that.

The key is to reevaluate your beliefs about and feelings towards older people as you get to know more of them and to actively seek to know more of them in spheres where you are likely to find some who have some things in common with you.

/pop psychology.
posted by lollusc at 7:20 PM on March 29, 2016 [6 favorites]


My mother lived to the age of 94. She had surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm at 86 and recovered very well. She was so physically healthy that the surgery made sense at the time. I was always surprised when others so much younger than she was had so many terrible "age-related" health problems.

She was very active and volunteered every day at the senior lunch program in her housing complex, as well as cleaning the church every week and volunteering at the local "cop shop" and on a senior patrol. They would go out as a group of three, a driver, a spotter and a recorder and drive by addresses provided by the police department. They would record the license numbers of the cars at the designated addresses. All of these things were important to her. When the housing complex management antagonized the senior lunch providers and the program was cancelled, that was a huge loss for her.

Not too long after that she realized she really couldn't live alone any longer, and my sister found an assisted living place near her home about 150 miles away from where my mother had lived. As time went on and her hearing and vision became less acute, and she didn't have something to do where she contributed, I noticed an increase in memory problems and so on. She did develop dementia and we did have to move her to a more secure housing situation. We were still very lucky.

Observing her situation, I have felt ever since that isolation and the lack of sensory stimulus due to hearing and vision loss are huge contributing factors to decline as a person ages.

I think we need to not ignore these things. If I need a hearing aid, I will get a hearing aid. I won't let my age isolate me.
posted by Altomentis at 7:41 PM on March 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


To be fair, once when Grandma was being medically evaluated for something (maybe the aneurysm or assisted living) we asked her if she'd told the doctor about her macular degeneration. She said "Why, he's not an eye doctor. I didn't think it was important." We come from a long line of stubborn that has it's own internal logic.

She also made the best sugar cookies ever that no one else has been able to replicate, despite having her recipe.

Yes, Altomentis is my mother. She doesn't need a hearing aid, she just isn't paying attention.
posted by monopas at 12:00 AM on March 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


I personally have a lot of goals for the next 20 years of my life but after that my number 1 goal is not to be an embarrassing burden. If at all possible I hope I can sacrifice my comfortable lifestyle to benefit my kids and younger people in general. I suspect I'm not alone in wanting to atone for the excesses & selfish policy decisions of previous generations.

I totally get where you're coming from. But the only thing I want to say in response is please be kind to yourself.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:04 AM on March 30, 2016


I'm a little over 50. I've been in IT since 1988. I've led international teams, launched multiple companies and been part of the teams that have taken multiple companies to the ipo stage. I couldn't get a job interview at my appropriate salary and responsibilities for love or money. I'm getting offers that are less than I made 30 years ago.

I love that I've aged out of the male gaze when it comes to getting harassed on the street, but it sucks that men with my same education and experience are considered automatically for director and three initial jobs, but I'm expected to take entry level jobs and salaries.

I guarantee you that if the name on my resume was Bob, I'd hear back on gigs I'm qualified for, rather than just sending my resume into the void.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:21 AM on March 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


P.S. Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements, they are insurance programs.
Washington’s age bias depends on a basic misunderstanding of the budget — namely, that older people have already paid for their Medicare benefits.

They haven’t. For most Americans, Medicare resembles a giant welfare program. They receive far more in government benefits than they ever pay in taxes and premiums. The gap for a typical household runs to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

...no cohort of Americans, with the possible exception of the very affluent, pays enough Medicare taxes and premiums to cover their costs. The gap is growing over time, too.

Two married 66-year-olds with roughly average earnings over their lives will end up paying about $110,000 in dedicated Medicare taxes through the payroll tax, including the portion their employers pay. They can expect to receive about $340,000 in benefits. Two average-earning 56-year-olds will pay about $140,000 and get back about $430,000 in benefits. (source)
Things are better--but basically the same--for Social Security. And that's okay. Entitlement seems like a dirty word to some people. I tend to think that it's the mark of a just society that we don't merely get out what we pay in. But this idea that current retirees have paid as they've gone is simply false, and it leads to a political refusal to treat younger generations with the same care and generosity as older ones.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:21 AM on March 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


P.S. Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements, they are insurance programs.

"Entitlement" has a specific meaning in this case -- something that Congress does not appropriate money for on a year-to-year basis, but that is automatically funded. This is opposed to "discretionary spending".

Food stamps, for instance, are often cited as an entitlement program, because people below a certain income threshold are "entitled" to them, but they are an appropriation (via the Farm Bill), not an entitlement under that definition.
posted by Etrigan at 6:29 AM on March 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Elderly people being treated as disposable inconveniences who should shut up and get out of the way is a serious problem.
Indeed it is, and yet this discussion remains central to talk of austerity with regard to social services: "Oh, our economy is collapsing people we never expected the lifespan to increase, and so now we have too many elderly. People are living too long."

I've seen this same line of seemingly innocent musing applied to the Greek economic crisis, the Japanese economic collapse, and the spectrous greying of the Baby Boomers in America.

It's very difficult to avoid treating the elderly as disposable inconveniences when policymakers and analysts (often, I might add, elderly themselves) are blaming the collapse of entire economies on "They just wouldn't roll over and die soon enough."
posted by baconaut at 7:21 AM on March 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guarantee you that if the name on my resume was Bob, I'd hear back on gigs I'm qualified for, rather than just sending my resume into the void.
IT as a whole is pretty "ageist".

Frankly, I've started paying a lot of attention to looking younger than I am for interviews and such. Yeah, I know that someone *can* figure out how old I am from the resume... but subconscious biases are alive and well. The Silicon Valley success story isn't "experienced, old programmer wrote something cool". It should be -- experience beats all-nighters any day... -- but it's not. The perceived need is for young energetic whizz kids, so that's what I sell.
posted by -1 at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


IT is ageist to be sure, but it's also sexist, and there's a particularly nasty intersection for women about 50 and up where we become shorthand for naive users. Developers my kid's age still think of 'so easy your mother can do it' as the holy grail of usability.

And when you point out how ridiculous that is, the responses consist of a bunch of people who never noticed it before (HOW?), and one or two people who regale you with stories about their mothers' technical incompetence.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is such a sad thread. I grew up Chinese and had very non-shitty grandparents and parents, so I was fortunate enough to be around older people I loved and to have some of the cultural values of taking care of your parents when you are older, and seeing that in action from my parents.

Being a queer person of color, I also was inspired by meeting queer and trans elder activists from the Stonewall period like Miss Major and the TGI Justice Project, who were badass organizers and more tough than I will ever be, and still organizing at age 60+.

Lastly, my parents are over 60 while I'm in my early 20s, so we both are feeling the strains of the current Western economy and systematic biases towards both of our age groups and our ethnicities. I can't find focused healthcare information for Asian men and women over 50+. I'm worried about how to take care of my parents as they age, while also trying to figure out how to start and maintain a career. Millenials are freaked out about aging too.

We need to destroy all bigotry, and understand how our oppressions are connected and intersect. Ageism is our struggle too, no matter what age we are, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, is our struggle too. I think it's necessary for real liberation and actual solidarity. Do intervene when there is bullshit going on, if possible.
posted by yueliang at 10:14 PM on March 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


I always looked young for my age but the wrinkles are fast catching up. I do not relish having to go from being treated at work as if I couldn't even spell my own name because, for two decades, I looked barely older than a teen to being treated like a burden because I'm finally looking old enough to no longer be "cute".
posted by _paegan_ at 12:53 PM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]




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