Disposable? Where is the outrage?

I am a 75 year old woman. I am smart, a life long learner, and curious. I have a good sense of humor and love to laugh. I work hard to be kind, a patient listener and open minded. I am a valued friend. I love animals and the outdoors. I am a writer and photographer. I have health challenges, especially in the last two years that have changed my physical abilities.

I have seven decades of experiences, both good and bad, and life lessons that I am happy to share and make me a helpful mentor. There is more to me too. But you would find that out as you got to know me.

I AM NOT DISPOSABLE!!

I am frightened, horrified and sickened by the growing movement, spurred by the pandemic that my age renders me useless. Somehow, I am a burden to society. I am a costly, time consuming old person, of little if any value, who should be allowed, even encouraged, to die in order to make room for younger people.

We have become a nation afraid of growing older. We hate what “old” is (whatever age that is – it differs for everyone). We do everything we can to avoid or delay it. Hundreds of products, commercials, seminars, political speeches, cartoons and memes are dedicated to the elimination of “oldness.” But since it is inevitable, we try to make it go away.

We hide the elderly in segregated housing, encourage “villages” for the over 60, and use nursing homes as the last resort when we have no other alternatives. We avoid intergenerational interaction. Comedians and politicians make jokes about it, some of which are crude and worse – cruel. And now – we have elected officials, those running for office and “bioethics” folks openly saying WE ARE DISPOSABLE!! Some go so far as to say it is our duty to give up our place in the world to make resources and room for the younger among us! After all, they say, we are going to die soon anyway.

But perhaps, the worst is, we allow this to happen! Where is the outrage? The protests? The articles and media saying NO!! Where do we find intelligent people talking and writing about being old and it being OK and normal? Where are the busloads of old people driving to their state capitals, calling their elected officials, flooding their inboxes with emails?

And why, oh why, do we, the old people, post cartoons and memes mocking ourselves? You see them everywhere — those nasty, disrespectful bits that create the impression that being old is pathetic and ugly. That old is useless.

Until growing old is recognized as normal, and a source of valuable experience and expertise – until what we have to offer is respected and welcomed – nothing will change. And worse yet, who comes next? The disabled? The homeless! The poor?

It begins with us. It is our moment, our time to raise the banner that proclaims Old Is Good!  When was the last time you heard someone talk about it with pride and exhort it’s value?

2020 will be a historic year. Citizens will address and demand change. Racism. Social Justice. Sexual Harassment. Equal Opportunity For All. And more.

Where is our outrage? Our voices? Our activism? When will Ageism be added to the list? Isn’t it our time too?

 

About Carole Leskin
Carole Leskin is a retired director of global human resources. Embarking on a second career as a writer and photographer concentrating on her personal accounts of aging, her essays and poetry, frequently accompanied by her photos, are published regularly in Jewish Sacred Aging, Starts At 60, Navigating Aging ( a Kaiser Health publication) Women's Older Wisdom, and Time Goes By. Her poems, Father Time and Carole's Debate were selected for inclusion in the 2019 anthologies of poetry, New Jersey Bards. Her photos have been featured in Mart R Porter Nature Forum. She is the founder of the blog YBAlone, which focuses on the challenges of growing older, especially for those who live alone with no family or support system, an issue that affects her personally.

15 Comments

  1. Once again, thank you Carole. We are so much on the same page. I appreciate and support your outspokenness. But of course, what else can you do? I hope you are keeping in touch with A Tribe Called Aging, both website and Facebook page. There is, in fact, a lot of outrage percolating all across the country about ageism. Communication is key.
    http://www.atribecalledaging.com

    • Thanks Marc. There is so much to do about this. I just found out the Grey Panthers are in existence in NYC! I think it’s time we started to pull together all our separate groups and move to a model we can take nationwide. What are your thoughts?

      • I was an active member of NYC Gray Panthers for several years. I can make an introduction to their president whenever you like.

        • Thanks Wendl. I am looking into finding a more local group. But I would like to talk to you soon about your experience with the group. Stay well.

        • Hi Wendl. I am checking if there is a local group near me. From what I csn see, the group has nearly disbanded. I would like to talk with you more about this . Can we phone soon?

  2. Hi Carole,

    I appreciate your much justified outrage at the ageism in society, on so many different levels! There is definitely a movement afoot, (full of outrage!), to address and combat ageism.
    And there is significant scholarship on ageism and it’s negative effects.

    Here are some resources for you to check out what’s going on:

    – Ashton Applewhite’s Ted Talk called “Let’s End Ageism”

    – My new academic piece in the Journal of Clinical Social Work:
    Ageism and Age Discrimination in the Family: Applying an Intergenerational Critical Consciousness Approach. Here’s the weblink: https://rdcu.be/b4yy4

    – OldSchool.Info is a clearinghouse for all information about the Anti-Ageism movement.
    On this site look for Becca Levy and her work on the negative consequences of ageism – her recent study found that ageism in healthcare costs the US $63 billion!

    – Check out The Wrinkle Project, an organization I founded to combat ageism – http://www.wrinkleproject.org – and on FB as The Wrinkle Project.

    And pls be in touch with me if you want more resources or would like to talk about ageism…

    Onward!

    Stacey

    • Hi Stacey
      I appreciate your reply and especially the resources. I am familiar with Applewhite. I took a quick look at your research and downloaded it as well as the others.
      I would like to move this brief conversation along. I have some ideas about creating an advocacy group, centered on the current political realm and would like your input.
      What is the best way for us to connect?

      • I would like to be part of an advocacy group –I am educated–aware–a good writer and speaker– Anything to help. I have as my personal role model whom I have followed through the decades–Gloria Steinem–.Raising awareness of ageism is really important to me.

        • Great ! Message me next week….need a bit of time to get things together. I am excited you want to be a part of this!

  3. evelyn schneider June 30, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Over the years I have visited many people in nursing homes and their own homes for my work. I am now 72 and expect one day people will be coming to visit me. One woman was disgusted with her inability to do anything anymore. She said she was just taking up space. I reminded her that during her long life she had experienced things I had not even thought of. I said she might just have the widsom needed by her granddaughter who was graduating. When we think back we realize it was often our elders who gave us the courage to make our world better for those who will come after us by changing how people can live out the gifts they have been born with.

  4. Thank you, Carole! I so agree with your thoughts here and value my 76 years on this earth! I have been trying to change the attitude around the word OLD and have found very few people who will allow themselves to use it…”I’m not old!” they say as they celebrate their 80th birthdays! I will check out the resources mentioned above and will continue my soft approach of blogging about vibrancy of Spirit in old age! Each one doing their part…

  5. Norma – your “soft approach” has been an inspiration and source of encouragement ever since we came to know one another. Your adult life has been dedicated to good causes and continues to be. Please remember that!!

  6. Wow! I have never allowed my chronological age to inhabit my persona and define me as if the number should. I am active, fit and involved in life and intend to live to be a ripe old age. I was inspired long ago by Katherine Hepburn, the actress, who said she had lived her life as a man—and fiercely so. She died in her sleep at age 97–which is my dream as well–no pain –no diminished cognition. Sure–it may be unrealistic but I have hope –and dreams. Where did those go for so many who allowed themselves to be shuttled away into dark corners and ‘villages’ . I remember turning ’40’ and becoming’ invisible’ — –to the younger generation. Still witty, attractive, intelligent. Now– the attitude–is get out of my way–the arrogance of the younger generations–is absolutely disgusting. I move quickly and have no mobility problems whatsoever. Some of my friends refer to themselves in a very derogatory way–and I won’t put up with it–that just contributes to disrespect. I am NOT an old –f–rt. Don’t include me in that really awful way of referring to yourself. My spirit is strong– and I will add my voice forever to the concept of respect no matter what age you are— you -we –I am a living being –and my life has value!!

  7. Thank you so much for your inspiring response!

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