Stereotypes of aging can drive you crazy… and here are 3 that are especially crazy:
1 – Old people are grumpy.
Well, you just called a total stranger by an insulting name (“Hey grandma!) … or offered to help an athletic older woman across the street …or made some general assumption (“Older people don’t do tech”).
They’re totally pissed off, and justifiably so.
Alternatively you may be expecting them to breathe life into the other stereotypes: “Old people are more easygoing…more quick to forgive…generally nicer.
As I say in my book on aging in sneakers, older people are supposed to be sweet. We’re supposed to be Miss Congeniality – the nice one who’s kind to everyone and never wins the crown.
You expect Miss Congeniality? You deserve to get a grump.
2 – Old people resist change.
Usually you hear this one in the context of…
“We want to put our mom in a nursing home but she doesn’t want to go…all that noise, loss of privacy, no control, losing her friends…too bad old people don’t like to change.”
When a 35-year-old dreads going to prison, do we say that person “resists change/?” Or do we say that’s a normal reaction to moving to hell?
Try moving Mom to a suite at the Ritz Carlton with room service, friendly staff and complete autonomy. I’ll bet her resistance to change will melt away.
3 – Older people (especially women) don’t care as much about their appearance.
When I do comedy I have a bit about why I don’t own a lot of makeup. It’s not because I’m old, I say. It’s because I understand the concept of Return on Investment.
At some point, you look beautiful only through the lens of someone’s loving eye…or some photographer who wants to maek a statement. There’s only so much you can do.
Don’t tell me about Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and that gorgeous 86-year-old down the block. They’ve probably got 10 lipsticks in their bag and the discipline to stay away from chocolate chip muffins.
Anyway, with all this age discrimination, many of us don’t have to get all dressed up for work. We’re supposed to stay home and play bingo all day.
Frankly, most stereotypes are crazy when you explore them up close and personal. Next time you hear one, consider saying something strong to the offending speaker.