Elder Music – or Maybe Not
GAY AND GRAY: Outreach to Elders

“Old Feeble” People are Kindle Buyers

category_bug_ageism.gif A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the insidious subtlety of ageist language. Now and then, however, something turns up that is so blatant and egregiously repellent that you need to go back for a second and even third read to be certain you understood it correctly.

Mary Jamison forwarded a story about the Kindle, Amazon's electronic book and magazine reader. It's easiest to just show you the headline:


This appeared on 1 May 2009 at a website named 24/7 Wall Street. The reporter, Douglas A. McIntyre, may not have written that headline – editors often do that – but according to the byline, he did write the story and it is pockmarked with equally ageist bigotry. Some examples:

“People who should have fixed habits including reading physical books using reading glasses are buying an electronic book reader instead.”
“An issue of The Reader’s Digest for Kindle costs only $1.25, but that is a publication for older people, as are most of the Kindle magazines which include old people favorites Forbes, The Atlantic, and US News.”
“...old people with money are the largest consumers of a number of things besides multivitamins and sweaters...”
“...a great many of the people driving dangerously fast cars are in their late fifties and their sixties.”
“The Kindle is being bought by mature and well-to-do consumers. Amazon will just have to live with that.”

Nearly every sentence of this short, 550-word story contains a disparaging shot at elders. (I wonder if Douglas A. McIntyre kicks his grandmother – if he ever bothers to visit her.)

According to the rare fact contained in this diatribe against elders, from a Gallup poll, 50 percent of people who use Kindles are older than 50. Twenty-seven percent are older than 60. And according to Mr. McIntyre in that final quotation above, Amazon may not want potential customers to know that. Or, it is equally possible that McIntyre might be unfairly projecting his own prejudices on Amazon's marketing department.

Noting that Oprah Winfrey was born in the pre-historic year of 1954, McIntyre says it is understandable that Kindle sales spiked after she touted the reader on her television program because “most of the people who watch her on TV or read her magazine are probably middle aged or older.” (He is correct about that.)

If not for Douglas A. McIntyre's general prejudice against old people, this could have been a positive story – for the Amazon Kindle and elders.

Since it was supposed to be a business marketing piece, what if the headline had read, “Elders Boost Kindle Sales.” And what if the reporter had done the work he is paid for instead of just quoting two Gallup metrics, and had interviewed some old people about why they like the Kindle and how, since conventional wisdom dictates that elders can't learn new technology, they came to adopt it.

Apparently Doulas A. McIntyre is so deeply embedded in his bigotry that he couldn't see the real story in the Gallup numbers – that it is elders who are making Kindle the success it is so far.

Or maybe he just doesn't like old people butting in on technology he believes should belong to young people.

As to that headline, beyond its offensiveness, McIntyre or his editor needs a dictionary; it is unlikely that anyone who is “feeble” is using a Kindle.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Jo-Jo the Monkey Faced Girl.


Both of my husband's parents (81) and my mother (78), are internet users. My in laws (who this writer would think of as feeble) read the world news in three or four languages. My mother keeps up with friends all over the country on message boards. It is fun to see MIL and FIL peering at their laptops with morning coffee and discussing the events in Sweden and Finland.

We are planning on getting them a Kindle. There are some great things about the Kindle, one, if you are living over seas you can download books in English and two, my MIL has arthritis in her hands so the Kindle will be easier to handle than paper books, and three, you can make the type size whatever you want.
The last feature makes it a great tool for all of us who now need glasses. That is probably why it is appealing to older people. I know I'll get one at some point.

Sounds like a case of "consider the source."

I had a feeling that this related to type size and reading a commment above, that is evidently the case. I have not tried Kindle and don't plan to because I read newspapers online and don't want more time looking at computer screens- of any size. If it keeps more people reading, it's a good thing.

As for the guy's ageist comments, I guess he had to find something to write about. I could see where people who actually were feeble might find it easier to hold than a book-- even a paperback and maybe in bed it's easier.

On the reading and aging, my mother had macular degeneration which led us to learn about the audio books for the blind by mail. Especially living in the country, this was very cool and exciting for her to be able to continue stimulating her mind when her eyes weren't able to do the work anymore.

Grr, grrrrandma is mad. I'd send McIntyre my "Chicago Manual of Style," and a dictionary, but I'm guessing neither editing,or research is really his forte. We can share our thoughts with him however. Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at doulasamcintyre@247wallst.com.

Little creep doesn't have room for comments, The entire website is that way. How responsible is that?

I think he should be spanked and grounded for a week.

Celia, your email addy for him doesn't work...

The word 'insensitive' comes to mind. Douglas needs a lesson in good journalism.

The "g" in Douglas is missing in Celia's addy as written. I dropped him a line! There is a link to the address on the "About" page. Scroll all the way to the bottom to find the link to "About".

Sorry, I guess I'm not getting the problem. What's so bad about the words "old," "feeble," and even "mature"?
Though I do agree with you, Ronni, about the ways to have made the story more positive and interesting.
But what if we substituted for the three words above, "young," "frisky," and "immature"? Wouldn't that just be a different kind of ageist story?

"What's so bad about the words "old," "feeble,"??
"Old" when in proper context is a neutral adjective (I just made up that grammatical term) Like in "ten year-old whiskey" but in the context of Mr.McIntyre's article, it's disparaging and demeaning. "Feeble" is a totally different can of worms. I can't think of any way that one might use "feeble" without deprecating the object or person described. However, let's not quibble about semantics.
It's the author's attitude that stinks. I wonder how he'd describe his grandparents?

The headline was definitely snarky, but the article makes some interesting points. I find it interesting that the writer says that the Atlantic Monthly is only read by "old people." One can only hope that the writer gets crippled by arthritis at an early age so he can really understand. In the meantime, I am 62 and far from feeble. I read voraciously although I prefer, like Cpt Picard, to have a physical book in my hand. I see no reason to pay for a Kindle when I can go to my local library and get the books I want. The only thing that is stopping me are my knees which will be replaced soon. The writer obviously doesn't get it, does he? Or perhaps he/she is a tad envious?

It's his site, he's one of two editors - so it's his headline.

His site offers financial advice - and seems to be obsessed with following the business doings of Warren Buffett - an old, feeble guy.

Because he is overweight and largely sedentary, my 48 year old husband has many physical limitations that my 79 year old father does not. The difference in their physical abilities become more apparent every year. My dad can and does still climb under machinery to do repairs while I watch my husband struggle to tie his own shoelaces.

I do appreciate your relentless support of elders Ronni, even though I am far from elderly myself. But in this subject matter as well as others where people are so blatantly closed-minded, I really wonder sometimes and in some cases about whether or not the effort expended is worth it.

I'd be surprised if Doug McIntyre is visiting or kicking his grandmother these days -- he's in his mid-50s, a newly-minted senior himself.

That article is just outrageous!! And I've looked and looked but don't see a way to contact the guy or even the site.

Oh, sorry, I see Celia has given us his email. I'm gonna USE IT!!!

Consider this, Mr. Kindle Dingle:

Your "feeble" ancestors changed your diapers, fought wars, invented most push-button devices you use, and oh, I guess you should take a hard look in the mirror, dude, as you are already one of us. The Feeble Ones. Come on up to Montreal, so I can kick your doughy butt.

I'm not sure why people over 50 years of age are considered technologically impaired. Our two dear leaders, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, were both born in 1955. Baby boomers are still running the show and will continue considering how tight they're holding job opportunities from the youth; although, that wasn't a problem when this article was written and Steve was still living.

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