Baby Boomers Look to Senior Concierge Services to Raise Income – by Liz Moye https://nyti.ms/2qCqDA0
What I wrote to the Times:
As an aging Boomer I’m appalled by this article. The headline suggests that baby boomers could “raise income” by working as low-paid service workers.The rest of the article reinforces the stereotype of “seniors” as caring and nurturing people who are more concerned with doing good and leaving a legacy than earning money.
This stereotype encourages discriminatory attitudes among prospective employers and clients in the mainstream, profit-oriented business world. Not everyone wants to play a nurturing role, nor are many suited to perform these duties. Yet prospective employers, most authors of books about careers after 50, and even organizations like AARP, assume that seniors aren’t interested in demanding, competitive jobs with pay commensurate with their skills.
Additionally, the article suggests ghettoizing the elderly. The idea is that people of the same age will find a “social bond.” The NYT would never suggest that people will find a bond on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Just being part of the same demographic doesn’t mean you have anything in common or even want to spend time together. .
Think of all the 70+ legislators and politicians who run this country. They’re not exceptional in physical or mental capability. They’re exceptional because they aren’t forced to walk away from meaningful, challenging jobs that bring them enough income to hire their own repair and transportation services. They have access to good medical care, not desperate doctors who force them into rounds of unnecessary tests and debilitating drugs. They’re taken seriously in conversation with people of all ages.
A reminder of aging comes at the treadmill in the gym. At 85, Robert Goldfarb notices the graphs for runners’ heart rate goes up to age 70 and stops. It’s a reminder that he is “now officially one of the old-old.” Writing for the The New York Times, his article Talking To Younger Men About Growing Old reminds us that a lot of the frustrations with aging come not from our bodies, but from the way we are defined totally by our age, not by any other factor.
At age 85, Goldfarb is a competitive runner. Yet airport employees come rushing over with wheelchairs and offers of early boarding. (Frankly, I’d take those offers even if I were 55…or 35.)
Goldfarb finds that men his own age don’t want to talk about aging. As he says, men of his generation “regarded feelings as something to be endured, not discussed… Men in my platoon didn’t embrace when we parted after serving in the Korean War. Closer than brothers, we settled for a handshake, knowing that’s what men did.”
What Goldfarb describes is a cohort effect, which many people confuse with an aging effect. We often associate aging with the behaviors of our parents or grandparents, forgetting that when we reach their age, we won’t be like them.
I look at the 30-somethings in my gym who participate in boot camp classes. These classes didn’t exist when I was their age. In particular, women just didn’t do the kinds of exercises we do in class, unless they joined the US Marine Corps (and maybe not even then). Thirty years from now, these totally fit women won’t be moving like their great-grandmothers.
If you want another example, we used to see little old ladies riding on the buses, all dressed up to go shopping. They’d carry a tiny shopping bag from a high-quality store – just one little bag, which suggested they were shopping just for something to do, and felt they had to buy something. They’d be wearing heels and hose, with full make-up.
I remember telling a Canadian colleague, “One day these women will be gone.”
“Where will Eaton’s be?” he teased, referring to a Canadian store that somewhat resembled Macys.
Today Eaton’s is gone and so are the old ladies. I ride the bus in gym shorts and see women of all ages in jeans, sweats and yes, shorts. They wear short sleeves with their bra straps showing, sandals and sneakers. They shop on the Internet and make friends on Facebook.
Cohort effects trump age a good deal of the time.
Some things probably shouldn’t make it to the Internet. Today someone posted on LinkedIn about turning 60. He wrote a whole LI article too for all the world to see. I’m sure he meant well so I’m reluctant to post a link here. But his post embodies many stereotypes of aging.
This guy writes: One thing that becoming an old guy gives me is the right to write an article about what I’ve learned along the pathway that constitutes my life.
Saying you get wise with age is just another way of saying that biological age is related to abilities and skills. I know a guy who’s 32 going on 45 and some people who are in their 60s going on 12. Saying that you now get the “right” to share your views is another way to differentiate yourself from others in a meaningless way. You’ll scare off potential friends, employees and clients.
So what if you’re 60? You’re an expert in some things but not others. Simply living a long time doesn’t mean anything. Just look at some of our politicians.
As it turns out, the wisdom he offers consists of a bunch of cliches and opinions that come out of left field. For instance, “A dog will mourn you when you die, a cat will eat you. Just sayin’.”
Sixty years of living to learn that?
Then there’s “Always take a leak in the other man’s toilet.” I have no idea what that means.
Today’s New York Times Style section included an article, The Bliss of Grandmother Hormones by Dominique Browning.
She has a remarkably frank comment about aging:
“When we’re young, aging looks sort of yucky; frankly, even though it is extremely un-P.C. to say so, it looks sort of yucky when we get there, too. Hence, the magical thinking around skin creams.”
It’s not clear what we’re to make of that comment. Is she saying that yes, older people are ugly and therefore worthy of discrimination?
But, she says, all these concerns about aging disappear when one enjoys the pleasure of holding “a six-pound newborn boy” against “a heart burnished with the patina of age.”
Probably true. As a single person, I get a lot of pleasure out of holding my cat or snuggling with the dog. Age is a non-issue. Just mutual acceptance.
Maybe I should try for an op-ed about that. Not as PC as grandmothers but surprisingly common.
Not sure how I feel about this article. It’s not easy to transport attitudes across cultures.
In some ways the stereotypes are reinforced, such as asking “elders” for advice. Being old doesn’t automatically make one wise.
But in general, shouldn’t everyone be treated this way? In a medical setting, everyone should be addressed by last name and title. But if everyone else is on a first name basis, why make the “elders” stick out?
It’s fine to serve “elders” first at a family or purely social event, but not everyone likes to be reminded of his or her status. In some contexts, special care comes across as patronizing.
I’m especially nervous about the advice to intrude on someone’s privacy by assuming they’re lonely and want company. No thanks! Nobody should be in a nursing home – they’re evil places. If you’re at a party and see someone who’s alone, it’s nice to seek them out; in fact, it’s a savvy networking strategy.
Age isn’t a useful marker here. Anyone can be lonely, physically limited, or able to deliver wise counsel. Focus on the person, not the age.
Today’s New York Times has an article on retirees who form “virtual villages” to combat loneliness and get things done.
Frankly, I don’t get it. If you live in a city, you already have a virtual village.
Some things are free. You can get groceries delivered to your door. I don’t take any meds but I could find someone to deliver them if I needed to. Besides Fresh Direct, we have InstaCart (which will do drug store runs) and Task Rabbit.
Some things cost money. You can take classes all over town. You don’t need a “senior” approved class. I live near a world-class pottery studio and am a fast bus ride way from all kinds of art classes, comedy classes … anything a person of any age might want.
Some thing are free. Many community colleges and universities allow people over a certain age to take or audit classes for free.
I belong to a regular gym. I take classes. Sometimes I can’t do all the moves – not because I’m old, in most cases, but because I didn’t do enough gymnastics as a child. No problem. Few people of any age can do all of the moves and all the instructors will suggest modifications. I also work out on my own with weights. I started working with a trainer just over two years ago, when I had an injury and couldn’t find a competent physical therapist.
My city has tons of Meetup groups. They don’t ask your age. If you don’t want to go to a movie alone, join a group based on your interest, not your age.
We also have tons of opportunities to be useful with volunteerism – everything from tour guiding to animal rescue.
If I lived in the suburbs, I’d need a car, which costs $5-10,000 a year. Most cities have amenities for people over 65. Lots of things are free or almost-free, including food delivery.
Often you can get things free, too. I sometimes volunteer to usher for plays because if I don’t like the play, I can always say, “Well, at least I didn’t pay $50 and up to be annoyed.”
Mostly what bothers me is, why are these villages for retirees? Most retirees are healthy and able-bodied. Why are they subjected to stereotypes of aging?
In fact, I’d like to ask them, “Why retire?” I’ve tried a few times and got totally bored. I’m too busy to socialize with my age-mates at a happy hour or a movie. I spend time with people of all ages when I have something in common with them besides our decade of birth.
Right now I’m cursing the Internet because I can’t figure out how to get a blank page with a header in one of my blogs. I’m revising my website, which means rewriting pages and struggling with the demands of a new WordPress theme. I’m making videos, which is a hassle because I live near a noisy bridge in a noisy city and have to remove the background noise.
And if I didn’t have these things going on, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of a murder mystery that is a rare treat, not something I can do each day. I might write a mystery or do more comedy… but probably not. I love my pottery class but I wouldn’t be in the studio every day. There’s something about time stolen from work, contrasting with work, that leads to real enjoyment.