Bob Miller on Ageism

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An essay from Advanced Style: Older and Wiser

I’ve never been 90 years old before, nor had I ever been 89 or 79 years old before, but I have been, am now, and will be. Not all things were a surprise. I had the advantage of observing the age-related changes and modifications of movement, thought, and physical appearance of my parents; a dynamic, involved, loving couple who were together from ages 16 and 19 and who lived to be 92 and 95 years old respectively. In their case, only in death were they separated.

We spent many hours discussing the ‘’ageing experience’’ a major portion of which was about how to people that they came in contact with—had dealings with, interacted, and dealt with—suddenly they were their ages first and their given names secondly.

Ageism is the discrimination towards the aged and ageing. I urge you to pay attention to too comments such as, ”Oh you forgot,” or, “You don’t remember.” That’s ageism. When you are passed over or ignored, when you are spoken to as if you were a child, when in any manner or means you are belittled or insulted because of your advanced age, that is age-ism at work. When your doctor talks to his assistant about you and your concerns instead of talking directly to you, his patient, that is ageism at work.

I want to see political involvement in a program that informs a course of action to correct these ills; outreach that advises when to call the better business bureau, or the dept of discrimination, and what to do when your complaint is ignored. I feel that ageing can be insulting, belittling, and diminishing. It destroys one’s sense of self, ones quality of life and good health. You must make a noise to have things change. Call and write your representatives—your senators, the president, all elected officials—advise them that they will not get your vote unless they help cure this disease.

In the meantime, be sure that you are involved in life and living. Know what is going on in the world around you. Listen to young people, do not lecture them, and you might just learn something you didn’t know or consider before. Avoid spending all your time with your age group; you’ll not learn anything you don’t already know. Make an effort to be well groomed and polished at all times; you’ll like yourself more, you’ll want to take “you out.” (Your clothes and grooming should and must be age appropriate.)

Life is an adventure. Get out there and live! – Bob Miller

  • Taste of France

    He makes a lot of good points. My mother at 90 still thought of herself as her much younger self. It was terrible to see the way doctors would act as if she had dementia, which she didn’t.

  • sage

    I’m 56 and have used a cane for years. It’s amazing how many people talk loudly to me. As if because my legs don’t work to well my hearing must be going too. Eh, I shrug it off. To the nosy people who ask what’s wrong with me I say “you don’t know, do you”. That makes them stop and think 🙂

  • Theresa LaSalle

    Simply put, he speaks the truth.
    “You must make noise to have things change.”
    Even the term “senior citizen” has negative connotations. Let’s start with changing this term as the ID for those of us … 60 and over. When I go to a film or museum…Yes, I do ask for that discount. However I do not say “senior citizen” . I simply say, I’m 68….and then the cashier or whomever gives me the discount. Let’s stop using that term….as I’ve said earlier…it paints such a negative picture in people’s minds… but most importantly in our own mind. STOP IT NOW and be good to yourselves.

  • Maggie Downing

    Dear Bob, Learning to “listen” is great advice! It is a lost art. At 70, I’ve been a radio show host for 28 years. I loved to hear a guest say after an interview, “I was nervous but you made it fun!” My secret? I studied ways to make my guest – not me – the focus of each interview. I sought ways to put them at ease. I asked questions based as much as possible on their last response. It really helped the interview to flow.
    Likewise, every new encounter should resemble an interview. Don’t wait for someone to be interested in you. If you’re advanced in years, you might have to wait a long time. And at this stage none of us has that luxury. Ageism is alive and well. But that’s only part of the problem. Think about it: What is the symbol of our age? The “selfie”, right? So how does “ageism” overcome “selfism”? Simple. Engage all we meet as individuals worthy of our time and attention. Be proactive. Pretend to be interested in them. (That’s right! Fake it til you make it!) After all, we have decades of wisdom on our side and the foolishness of youth behind us. Most of us, anyway. So look people in the eye and ask thoughtful questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Talk to kids – and doctors – like they are adults. Ask intelligent questions. Base follow-up questions on their responses. We all long to relate to someone who expresses a personal interest in us. And unless asked, resist the urge to talk about yourself. Don’t share dislikes, experiences, politics, etc. – on your first date. People that are worthwhile will come around.
    And lastly, recognise that you are not alone in your feelings. Many people go through their entire lives feeling like “non-entities” – broke and broken, wanting yet unwanted, invisible. So if you were once loved and needed, once seen as desirable, thin, necessary, and important – consider yourself blessed. Treasure those times. Keep them safe in your heart. Share them only with those able to value them as you do. Cease striving to win over those who don’t see you that way now. Don’t cast your pearls before “selfies”. Revel in those – no matter how few – drawn to the joie-de-vivre engraved on your face, having risen above the worst that life has thrown your way. Ponder on how to be winsome and gracious in all things. Desire that it be your most precious legacy.

  • la Contessa

    I LOVED THIS!I WILL PRINT IT OUT AND CARRY DOWN TO THE HOME WHERE MY 91 year old MOTHER LIVES………..then I will put a COPY on my REFRIGERATOR to remind MYSELF and WHAT YOU SAID!I just did a BLOG POST on DRESSING BOB I think YOU would enjoy!
    http://thevintagecontessa.net
    YOU ARE SO RIGHT ABOUT GETTING OUT AND LIVING!AS one of the OTHER LADIES SAID,”LIFE ISNOT A DRESS REHEARSAL”!!
    BRAVO!

    • Theresa LaSalle

      Yay la Contessa!

  • Fifi

    Go, Bob, go! A very good reminder. My next doctor visit will be different from my last, thanks to you.