Tuesday, 08 May 2012
“Honoring” Elders During Older Americans Month
ITEM: The public transportation agency in Portland, Oregon, TriMet, avoids using the word “old” with a hokey euphemism Crabby Old Lady had not heard before moving here. As they explain on their website:
"'Honored Citizen' is how TriMet identifies seniors age 65 or older, people on Medicare and people with mental or physical disabilities. Honored Citizens receive reduced fares and priority seating on buses and trains.”
What a crock. Empty phrases like "honored citizen" are what give political correctness (and in this case, elders), a bad name.
ITEM: A local service organization that does excellent work for elders in many areas of need and interest is using the May designation of Older Americans Month as a fundraiser urging people to donate in the name of an old person who will then receive a “handmade card” recognizing the gift made in their honor.
Just what every elder needs; Crabby is sure they are thrilled.
ITEM: The U.S. government's Administration on Aging (AOA) website explains that Older Americans Month is meant to “honor and recognize older Americans for the contributions they make to our families, communities and society.”
But that's not what the AOA does. Instead, each year, the organization issues a theme for Older Americans Month:
”This year's theme 'Never Too Old to Play' encourages older Americans to stay engaged, active and involved in their own lives and in their communities.”
The AOA's big suggestion for communities to encourage older Americans' engagement is to host a “Day of Play” during May with such activities as a “team trivia night, inter-generational Wii bowling tournament or...a photo scavenger hunt.”
Oh yeah, Crabby is certain that a round of miniature golf will honor elders as never before.
To be fair, an activity guide brochure [pdf] has some other, more palatable, “play” suggestions but to Crabby, it still looks like the same two, disturbingly wrong depictions of elders repeated in every discussion about us:
- Photos of grinning old people who don't look all that old
- Concentration on activities that are usually more suitable for second-grade recess period
Crabby Old Lady is not saying crossword puzzles, quilting and Pokeno are not perfectly fine pastimes in their place. But she finds it demeaning that what are, undoubtedly, well-meaning efforts to include elders are always about light entertainment and provide nothing that can be defined as the AOA's own call for elders to be “engaged, active and involved in their own lives and in their communities.”
And just to be clear, Crabby's complaint about all this has nothing to do with the thousands of local social workers nationwide who do amazing work helping elders against sometimes astronomical odds no small part of which is constant cutbacks in federal and local funding.
What Crabby Old Lady objects to is this belittling of old people with empty "honoring." Crabby does not want to be honored, especially with such a pandering title as “honored citizen” that nobody believes in anyway.
Nor does she want a card - hand-made or store-bought – in “honor” of someone else's donation.
She does not want an afternoon of games one day a year and to be ignored for the other 11 months.
Crabby wants inclusion for elders in daily life every day of the year.
There is so much that needs doing for elders that would help them take part in the life of their communities - that would help everyone else too. Such as:
- Improve public transportation
- Enforce age discrimination in the workplace laws
- Encourage better geriatric education for physicians
- Invite elders onto the citizen advisory boards of cities and towns
- Create opportunities to serve that make use of elders' decades of experience and knowledge
- Teach elders how to effectively lobby government officials
Most of all, stop Congress from scaring the crap out of elders with constant threats to cut or kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Working on these issues would be real honoring of elders.
February is Black History Month and every year, there are hundreds of activities that involve poetry, music, science, politics, military, entertainment, lectures, book signings, famous firsts, civil rights movements, biographies, exhibits and that doesn't begin to cover it all.
Lots of this information is on the television broadcasts we regularly watch and on the websites we visit every day and in special sections of book stores, for example. Black History Month is hard to miss and each year, Crabby learns more and more about the African American experience.
What Crabby Old Lady would be thrilled to see something similar for Older Americans Month. Now, THAT would be honor. After all, elders come in all colors and there is a lot more to know about us than games, greeting cards and demeaning euphemisms.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: Abraham