And So It Goes...
Happy Thanksgiving 2007

Elders as Children – A Trend?

During a television newscast yesterday morning, Crabby Old Lady saw a commercial for the Jitterbug phone – you know, the one with big, easy-to-use numbers that actually makes calls without all the texting, photographing, web surfing and mowing the lawn??

Good idea, the Jitterbug, for elders or anyone who wants just a telephone without all the electronic doodads. But Crabby wasn’t much pleased with the commercial which showed several 40-to-50ish adults talking about buying the phone for a parent.

Crabby detected a distinct whiff of condescension from the actors in the commercial, as though the parents of these mid-aged people either wouldn't get the message from the ad on their own or wouldn’t have the wit to buy one of the phones for themselves. “Grrrr,” said Crabby to herself as she switched off the TV and forgot about it a minute later.

Then last evening – the same day - the actor Hector Elizondo turned up in a “CBS Cares” public service announcement saying something close to:

“HIV is a growing problem in retirement communities. I’ll bet you never thought you’d need to talk to your parents about safe sex.”

Hey, CBS - it's not cute and it's not funny that switcheroo on parents' birds-and-bees conversation. You may speak to Crabby Old Lady directly, if you please, about her sexual habits. And she will be able to understand - she's been doing it since before you were born and she pretty well has a handle on the procedure now, including STDs.

When did the media begin talking to elders through their adult children, as though Crabby and other old people are too senile to buy either a phone or condoms on their own? Crabby never noticed this particular twist on ageist behavior before. Is it a new media trend, this infantilizing of elders? If so, Crabby wants it to stop it right now before it goes even one step further…

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lynda Jordan lets us in on the story of a lifelong Secret Love she has never forgotten.]


If my kids attempted lecture to deliver to me what they called mom's famous "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and if you can't be good, be careful" lecture, I'd probably die laughing and I hope they know that. Thank God they haven't taken treating me like I'm a kid . . . yet.

You have a good eye (and ear) for that kind of stuff. Don't stop!

It seems as if most humans can't stand to leave well enough alone. Everyone must be in a 'box'. Are you over 60? You go in the Old People's box. It was the same when we were teenagers and it was wrong then.

You're so right as usual, Ronni. Since I foolishly pay about $25 per month for a cell phone I've used exactly once in the past year (and seldom can even locate), I'm about to order a Jitterbug and write a review of it. I'm just not a telephone person.

Fortunately, I have no immediate family to treat me like a child. I, too, resent being put into that "old folks" box by the media. You've given me another idea for my own blog post; I have a few examples of my own.

Marlys and anyone else who's about to jump to Jitterbug, please let me tell you about another product which I find very pleasing and highly competitive, pricewise. Another 'pushing 70' person and I use a system which, delightfully, was designed for and markets to the pre-teen and early teen set. You can read about it at It's a real bargain for those of us in the hardly-ever-use-it category. The cost is $20 every three months. They advertise independence and freedom from plans, concepts appealing to their target group. In their user guide booklets, it's a bit hard to take all the photos of the very hip, very young customers they're targeting. And you hope your own grandchildren don't take them as role models, but the price is very right. And you can enjoy the challenge of setting up different special ringtones for the people you most frequently receive calls from. Check it out!

Hear, hear for virginmobileusa. I've used it for years. We want a phone when we travel (and when my partner was hospitalized out of town) and love this plan!
Just FYI - $20 e/3 months is the minimum: if you use it a lot, the cost per minute could get you. This is the plan for periodic or infrequent users. But it's just perfect for us.

Well, sad as it is to say, when parents get past a certain point, and it's certainly not at Crabby's age, but somewhere in elderly elder years, there is a change in the role of parent to child. It seems very weird, is upsetting to the kids as much as maybe to the parents but it happens. The parent becomes less able to think clearly, doesn't keep up on the latest news as well. It's just how life is. Not for all elders. Some stay with it right to the end, but it happens.

I have heard that in places like Sun City in Arizona, some of the elders are being promiscuous (public sex not with their partners) and whether people want to think all elders turn asexual as they age, it's not so. So while I think it's not good to see ads that demean elders, I also know that the sexual issues of being responsible don't go away with age and that sometimes kids and parents do seem to change places.

Like everyone else, I hope it won't happen to me but probably our parents hoped that also. What I hate to see worse than maybe a kid giving a parent a warning about safe sex is when the kids have to take away the parents' rights, make decisions for them as to where they live, whether they drive, what doctor they see, and that all happens to sometimes. The 'elderly' years can be tough is all I can say.

Haven't you noticed that when you buy a reduced for 'seniors' ticket, you are not counted among the adults? It will say children, adults and seniors. It drives me crazy that elders are in a class apart like children. But no one seems to care.

Well, I'm 79 next week and love every moment of it.

Anyway, I have a Jitterbug and am nuts about it. For one thing, it is a statement against the type of crap our kids have to adorn their cell phone with. I love the clean, efficient, simple feel of it. Has nothing to do with how old I am, just with the values I still hold. Highly recommended!

Compared to childhood, adolescence, and the so-called adult stage; the elder stage of life is least understood of all. The recent increase of 30 or so years of life expectancy has brought about a large and relatively undefined population. Traditional images of the weakened and docile elder, although often mistaken, are still prevalent. We must be careful not to let others define us.

Consider this well known maxim of social psychology: What we think about people influences how we will perceive them; how we perceive them influences how we will behave towards them; and how we behave towards them ultimately shapes who they are. In other words, society’s attitudes toward elders can influence elder’s attitudes toward themselves.

I’m glad to see that’s not happening here. Thanks Crabby

I'm learning to notice ageism, and I'm becoming crabby about it, too. In a book about Digital Photography I read that uploading photos was so simple there is even a 65-year old great grandmother that can do it. If they can, anyone can.

I bet she has a few skills he would find challenging to learn, too. Picky, Picky.

Complex things going on. What about an analysis of "adults?" Their public sex, unsafe sex, trouble setting up electronics, falls on ice, inappropriate reasoning, etc. It is all there, just seems to be problematic if it involves elders.

Can't you just imagine the group of youngish marketing types gathering around with the advertising agency? Sheesh, when will they ever learn?

Great post, so glad I found your blog. I'm one of those middle-aged children the ads are probably aimed at and I'm glad I read your post as it made me think twice about how I treat my 89-year-old mom and 87-year-old aunt. Both of them are sharp as tacks but I think I do tend to tell them what to do a bit too much! And I'll be in that position soon enough so I should be more considerate! Thanks for the wake-up call.

Also I agree with Lilalia, it's so true, the marketing and advertising people are SO YOUNG. I work in market research and we are constantly laughing at what the ad agency comes up with. They're all about 23 years old, live in Manhattan, and are totally out of touch with reality.

Most comments about us aren't so nice. It's even worse when I have to ask them to repeat something. I know their thinking hearing aide needed here...

So what's next my teeth..oh gosh I hate the inevitable... Dorothy from grammology
remember to call your gram

Hello all.
I just dropped by to say that I am grateful for you, Ronni, and all these wonderful voices so vibrant here.
Happy Thanksgiving, or Happy Thursday if that works better for you. :)

Obviously, I agree with the idea of resisting this treatment of aging adults as though we're children by the clueless advertising people. Perhaps, as has been pointed out here in previous blog posts, if their staffs employed a few more elders with whom they consulted this denigrating could be eliminated.

I'm in the market for a cell phone, but I always feel as though the only language companies understand is $$ signs, so I won't buy the product because of their ads. Perhaps I should write and tell them that.

Rabon is so correct, and, of course, I must add these attitudes and perceptions are influenced by and reflected in THE LANGUAGE USED.

They probably did a study and found that that age group has more money to spend, so they're trying to create a market. It's greed, pure and simple.

My mother is in her 80s -- I am 60ish -- and she can still put me in my place with a few words.

Example: After she was diagnosed with emphysema and refused to stop smoking, I attempted to impress upon her that she could wind up walking around with an oxygen tank. "You have a decision to make about your quality of life," I said.

"That's right, I do. And it's my choice," snapped Mom.

End of discussion. No lost marbles on her part, even though we disagree about those choices. I'd selfishly like to have my crabby old lady around as long as I can.

My mother is in her 80s -- I am 60ish -- and she can still put me in my place with a few words.

Example: After she was diagnosed with emphysema and refused to stop smoking, I attempted to impress upon her that she could wind up walking around with an oxygen tank. "You have a decision to make about your quality of life," I said.

"That's right, I do. And it's my choice," snapped Mom.

End of discussion. No lost marbles on her part, even though we disagree about those choices. I'd selfishly like to have my crabby old lady around as long as I can.

I get the point - but not all "elder elders", the 85+ -ers, are quick-witted, on-the-ball, literate (let alone computer literate), contemporaries. Throw in early-stage dementia, and care-giving is necessary. And much of it has to be non-negotiable, "because I said so" stuff.
During the Clinton-Lewinsky mess, my then-80-yr-old mother had no idea what oral sex really meant. She was horrified, repelled--simply grossed out--when my sister told her.
If we wouldn't have purchased a microwave for my aunts & uncles, they would never have gotten one; they didn't have the confidence to negotiate the technology. Simply forget cell phones--won't happen with my 80+ relatives.
And, regarding a parent's choice to pursue activities that will make them more sick, earlier, I suggest that it is not simply their choice, because they aren't the only ones affected. The daughter of the mother with emphysema will pay herself for her mother's choice in the increased caretaking should her mother become homebound. Unless, of course, the daughter chooses not to be a caregiver - and that seems to me to be a fair point to make to one's parent.

I wrote a book called MY SEX SECRETS BY GRANDMA in the late eighties when 1980s when I was in my late seventies. It was considered risque at that time. Now we oldies are coming out of the closet sexually.

It is about time that we elders were considered whole human beings with the capacity for sexual expression. I certainly was tired of being the old lady who was supposed to babysit and sit around in a rocking chair.

In the 1980s I joked about care centers and asked, "Wonder if elders have sex in care centers? Do they allow it there? How do they schedule it? Is it every Tuesday after basket weaving clas or Wednesday after the slide show that Harry Kerry brings in for entertainment? So when do they do it? Or is it true that old men can't get it up anymore?"

My husband and I kiss and cuddle these days and enjoy all the sexual memories from the past. Don't knock it!

The above comment that I made had some real typos, sorry. I have been up since 4:00a.m. taking care of my husband. Couldn't get back to sleep after our health aide finally arrived. Such is our life in our own home care center. But it is great to have my husband home. No one can walk in on us when we are cuddling. We are in control.

Yes, Seniors (Elders) 60 Plus are aware of these things and I'd like to see all of us continue our lifelong learning process and responsibilities. The current commericals I'm presently displeased with are any of those related to the product Viagra. It seems that the Drug Manufacturer feels that Elders lose their real linguistic abilities after 60 years of age; since these particular commericails insist that we all speak a 'giberish' type of slang language and it seems to have something to do with old age. Let's keep up the volume to change the present world attitudes with respect to these oulandish Marketing ploys for Seniors.

I'm glad you addressed this about that Jitterbug commercial....because I thought exactly the same thing when I saw it. What? The parents all of a sudden lack the intelligence to purchase a cell phone without the assistance of their children?
There's another commercial similar to this one, but I can't recall it at the moment (Okay...blame it on memory loss at 60) but it's also very condescending and if I think of it, I'll get back to you.

What really irks me is when I see care-givers talk down to my mother. I've had to correct a few of them and let them know that although my mom is 86 she does not suffer from dementia or alzheimers and is not a child!

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