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Never Ending Ageism

Several new books about ageing and ageism are being published this year and they will not go unnoticed at this blog. Meanwhile, a reader alerted me to an op-ed piece published on Friday in the Los Angeles Times that goes a long way toward making books and articles about ageism necessary.

”It may be a joke. It may be 'tongue-in-cheek,' emailed Patricia Edie who blogs at Life, as I Live It. "But it caused a twist in the center of my stomach.”

The op-ed, titled How Millennials Should Deal with Baby Boomers at Work, is written by Ann Friedman who, the newspaper tell us, “is a contributing writer to Opinion. She is a millennial.”

So we are all on the same page, millennials are loosely defined as being born between about 1981 and 2000 so are currently between the ages 16 and 35.

Boomer age has long been more specific: born between 1946 and 1964, now between ages 52 and 70.

After opening with a snarky reference to a less that flattering description of millennials in, she tells us with no link to cite her quotation, The New York Times, Ms. Friedman makes it obvious where her story is headed:

”...what happens when baby boomers dominate your office culture? What are the best practices for handling their Luddism and fragile egos?”

That sure does set a tone, doesn't it.

Here is some of the advice about boomers from the put-upon and oh-so-superior millennials who are, Ms. Friedman tells us, “working professionals age 33 or younger” interviewed via Twitter:

“...never assume that your baby-boomer colleagues...are unfamiliar with new technology. It's far more likely that they've read about it, tried it once and decided they hate it.”
“And don't talk to boomers as if their methods (even the ancient ones) are stupid. Keep it constructive. Suggest ways to optimize without remaking their entire process.”
“In a boomer-majority office, it's often necessary to ignore mild but routine sexism, cautioned many millennial women. Remember that some boomers joined the workforce before anti-harassment policies were created.”
“It's also important to signal to your boomer colleagues that you're aware of American history prior to 1990, without threatening their conviction that lived experience is invaluable.”

Condescending much?

In the early years of this blog, when I was writing about ageism and age discrimination I sometimes employed what I called “The TGB Bias Test” that involved substituting racial or gender references in place of the ageist ones in quotations. Let's give it a try today and see what happens. Replacement references are in italic:

“...never assume that your black colleagues...are unfamiliar with new technology. It's far more likely that they've read about it, tried it once and decided they hate it.”
“And don't talk to women as if their methods (even the ancient ones) are stupid. Keep it constructive. Suggest ways to optimize without remaking their entire process.”
“In a Latino-majority office, it's often necessary to ignore mild but routine sexism, cautioned many millennial women. Remember that some Latinos joined the workforce before anti-harassment policies were created.”
“It's also important to signal to your Muslim colleagues that you're aware of American history prior to 1990, without threatening their conviction that lived experience is invaluable.”

Ridiculous? Yes. Offensive? Definitely. In fact, I'm pretty sure that none of those rewritten quotations could make it into print at the Los Angeles Times or any other legitimate publication. But boomer bigotry is a non-issue.

Some people in the comments at the newspaper suggested this story was satire. Really? To succeed, satire needs to be recognizeable as such.

Perhaps in an effort to redeem herself and her quoted millennial cohorts, Ms. Friedman ends her piece with

”Finally, remind yourself, like Anne Brown, that you'll 'probably be old and lame someday too.' Or, as Tim Brack put it, 'remember that you'll be in their shoes in the end... complaining about the latest generation.'”

“Old and lame someday” certainly nails this Op-ed's prevailing millennial attitude. For a long time, ageism has been - and obviouisly remains - the last acceptable prejudice.

Comments

I am flabbergasted—speechless (but not quite!). Using the TGB Bias Test is a powerful way to illustrate what is so horribly wrong with this young person's views of Boomers. If she is so negative about that demographic, what would she do with older people like me? The crack about "lived experience" as opposed to "learned experience" (I would guess) is especially nasty. I'm constantly irritated by young "researchers" who write with such great authority about how it feels to be older, and what to do to "help" elders. There are some things that you can appreciate only through experience—being old is one of them!

While I'll agree that the writer of the piece is a twit insulting a whole generation of fellow human beings, characterizing all millennials as having the same attitudes kinda puts you in the same position, seems to me: another -ism. Just sets us up to keep shouting at each other over the fence, rather than changing behaviors.

Cam...
I beg to differ. I referenced in this post only the millennial who wrote the L.A. Times story and the millennials she interviewed via Twitter, not the entire generation.

This is only the most egregiously ageist piece I've seen recently among hundreds, maybe thousands of references in all media every day that malign old people from people of all ages - even, sometimes, to my everlasting chagrin, old people themselves.

Hardly anyone bothers to point out the many and commonplace slurs against elders based on nothing but their age. I stand by my post.

The attitude towards Boomers by Millennials most likely depends on what kind of business they are in.
I was one of maybe 10 Boomer types in a office of 40 Millennials, all doing the same job. In our particular environment, we old timers were looked upon as the persons to go to if you ran into trouble. We had a depth of product knowledge and knew how to deal with difficult customers far better than the younger workers. We were actually appreciated. But, as I said, that's just one business. I can imagine that in some fields (publishing, advertising, fashion etc.) anyone over the age of 40 is no longer considered viable.

Patricia E's dismissive attitude toward boomers will come to a screeching halt the day a younger, meaner ice-cold version of herself kicks down the office door.

It's just a matter of time.

Time waits for no one.

My experience with Millennials is much like Bruce's. I'm now retired from the Corporate world, however, have started my own online business selling my photo art. In the art world I've encountered (here in the Philadelphia area) there are many Millennials (in the same creative space) who are an absolute pleasure to deal with, and when I run into technology problems - are very helpful. My feeling is I'm in their grandparents age bracket, and they are respectful of that fact. I also think that respect and admiration increases when they realize how active, engaged, and spirited I am - much like it was for me when I was their age and found older adults full of life and living. I would also agree with Bruce, depending on the field, attitudes toward elders in the midst varies.

I agree that it seems to be easy to make a joke at older people's expense. I love the Daily Show, but lately they've been running a segment satirizing March Madness. Instead of basketball teams, they've created a bracket made up of "people, things and issues that make you mad." Then they pit one maddening item against another to see which is worse. On last Thursday's show they had Martin Shkreli going up against "old people." Fortunately, Shkreli won. When Roy Wood Jr. reported Shkreli's victory to Hassan Minaj, Minaj said, "Well, they're very brittle" (referring to old people).

I understand from what Trevor Noah said to introduce the segment that people vote online for these categories, so I guess lots of Daily Show viewers find old people maddening.

I'm not that offended because I think an equally damning column, valid or not, could be written about millennials.

Ronni, I agree with what you point out about the spread of these platitudes on ageism. It appears management everywhere may need to add generational diversity meetings to their repertoire of employee training. Both generations have much to bring to the work table. Perhaps that would further emphasize the us vs. them stance, but that arises from a lack of education and empathy, right? Respect for elders or anyone for that matter has deteriorated via the snappy, happy social media.

Her article title is telling of her age, not the validity of some of the points made. Of course, we find them offensive, but has no Boomer ever identified with or witnessed at least a couple of her points? It goes both ways. Individual personalities come into play. Until someone points out we all bring good to the whole, the parts can get petty.

The disgusting part of this slant in an article is the perpetuation of generalizations which you pointed out so well.

When I clicked on your link and read Ann Friedman's article in its entirety, it seemed clear to me that she is as tired of Millennial agism as Crabby Old Lady is of Senior agism. Both have their own ways of expressing your views—sarcasm and ranting. Probably both forms of expression are more or less effective at different times on different subjects with different audiences. That's the beauty of variety.

If we want to create a world that is more inclusive and respectful of different cultures, we will have to model what we want and be willing to accept different forms of expression.

Ronni, You nailed it in your final sentence, " For a long time, ageism has been - and obviously remains - the last acceptable prejudice."

So, even though I'm in the BBB (Born Before the Boomers category), I immediately twitted out your post with an appropriate comment.

Surely, there must be a range of attitudes, but among many Millennials, anyone older than 70 (the oldest Boomer) just doesn't count. Apparently, we might as well be among the dear departed. I find that to be somewhat true in other contexts as well. I read in a online article recently that adequate housing options for older people are often limited (imagine that!)--older people being defined as "between 65 and 80". My husband is 86 and I'm pushing 80--so, we're not old, or we're not people?! LOL.

Ronni, as a woman who worked in the news industry for many years, this type of OpEd must surely be especially aggravating to you. The lady does not realize about whom she speaks or what you have done to pave her way.

I'm actually not an official boomer, having been born in 1943, but I consider myself part of this generation. One of the things Ms Friedman fails to remember is that we women 'boomers' are the people who started the movement which allowed her to be in a position of authority in the office. Were it not for us, 'the girls' would still be airline stewardesses, teachers, secretaries and nurses.

When I was in high school, few of my female friends went to college for anything more than their 'Mrs' degree. I graduated in 1960 and within half a decade the working world as I knew it had begun its dramatic change. I might have started working for Ma Bell as a rollerskating 'O' operator but I was climbing telephone poles by the early 1970s as the first woman west of the Mississippi to become a 'lineman'.

I attribute much of Ms. Friedmans ageist, racist and sexist attitude to her unsophisticated youth and am secure knowing that she too will age and those snarky words will come back to her like dust in her mouth.

I'm not really shocked by those comments but they certainly made me mad. Especially the one about how "some boomers joined the workforce before anti-harassment policies were created.” Jeez, who does the writer think fought to bring those anti-harassment laws into existence? Millennials often make me laugh at their idea of work place sexual harassment. How many of could tell hair-raising stories of near rapes at work and no one in upper management cared?

I go to a website to debate politics a lot and some of Millennials there have such disgusting attitudes towards anyone over 55, as if we're all parasites. The only thing that is going to cure that is when they get there.

Too bad that Madison Avenue brought us the youth culture. Maybe we elders would be revered for our wisdom like they are in more primitive (not so much) cultures.

Perhaps if we compiled a list of the way we prop up industry with our money we could turn it around. I know; dream on.

Of course I agree. The article is meant to be funny; but comes across as just stupid. But we males, esp. older white males, get this all the time. We're used to it.

I can see she's trying hard, but no matter how patronizing she gets, she's minor league compared to what some baby boomers said about elders when we were her age. Her main complaint seems to be that older co-workers aren't up to speed on the very latest in social media, and sometimes don't even want to be. They tried it but hate it... Oh, boo hoo, you poor dear! That must be SO hard to cope with! How can you possibly LIVE with someone who dislikes your current fad-favorite technology??

But boomers? Boomers were the young people who said -- shouted -- "Never trust anyone over thirty!" They were talking about big issues: war and peace, life and death, Jim Crow laws, equality for women.

Yes, it was totally ageist to say that you couldn't trust older people to be on the right side of those issues. But... is the generational divide really reduced now to sad self-pitying whimpering about those pesky old folks who won't use instagram?

Damn... kids these days! Can't even get ageism right!

I agree with Nancy Wick, and in general I think the Daily Show has gone downhill. With Jon Stewart, that show wasn't only about wit; it was about wit with a broken heart beneath it, at all that's wrong. Now the broken heart is gone.

My final comment for the day: don't be distracted totally by all the anti-Trump publicity. Cruz is actually worse.

Thanks, Sylvia - my sentiments as well, and funny to boot!

It isn't particularly funny, but she intended it as a parody of several advice articles directed toward boomers who work with millenials. I checked her Twitter feed. When she solicited comments on Twitter for this topic, the remarks she got were sometimes far worse than the ones she ended up using. Like this one, for example: "Store things in low places. use acronyms everywhere. leave banana peels everywhere." Or: "(hope) for a heart attack and early retirement." At one point in the thread, she explained what she was doing. There were several kind and helpful comments that popped up along with the mean ones. Although I now understand her intention, I still don't like this piece because the satire is subtle and a lot of millenials, along with many others, will be encouraged in their ageism. Thanks for sharing this, Ronni.

Yes, you are right. I'm not the least interested in her view of that generation younger than I.

Some of the comments made me think of the ending of "All About Eve", that wonderful Bette Davis film in which she, as the fabulous Broadway star Margo Channing, is made to feel Very Old Indeed by newcomer Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter). And at the end of the film Eve, too, is facing competition from a younger version of herself. Thus was it ever so.

But I wholeheartedly agree with calling anyone out on their narrow minded prejudices.

Sylvia, I was just about to type those very words, 'Weren't the Boomers the ones who said, "Don't trust anyone over thirty.", when your comment turned up! So now I don't have to be the cranky conscience of the "silent generation"—how I hate that term! I'm ready to put down the generational sword and declare peace. We all know that the Millennials will get their just rewards when they reach the grand age of 65, if they are lucky!

Many elders of my acquaintance perpetuate this prejudice, no end to the cartoons of enfeebled dim witted elders faltering their way around the internet sans teeth or knickers. It is disgusting and I don't see the point of it. I've been told to "lighten up."

I have trouble, always, when one segment of society mocks another or even themselves. It is thinly disguised prejudice and "othering."

I failed to see any satire in the above piece.

XO
WWW

I'm even considered pre-baby boomer but I still recognize parody and satire when I read it.
The older generations have always (see Socrates or maybe it was Aristotle) been dismayed by the one behind them and vice versa!
Some of the chip on the shoulder (or mote in the eye?) attitudes we read on these pages have even effected my own perceptions as when I recently read a description of "two elderly women in turtlenecks and boiled wool jackets with elastic waistbands on their pants and athletic shoes, holding each other up", and thought it "ageist" but realized it was only the author's lack of imagination to fall back on stereotype.
Really, many of the readers of this blog are retired and we need to lighten up! (sic) and enjoy this chapter of our lives w/o sweating the small stuff. Most of it is really small.

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