Elder Music and Shared Passions
It's Not Old Eyes, It's Anyone's

Why Aren't They Talking to Crabby Old Lady?

For a good while, Crabby Old Lady has sensed that some of the media has stopped talking to old people – not in general (although a case could be made for that), but about their own important life events. This was on her to-do list to look into, but the idea was still vague and she had misplaced the examples that had piqued her interest.

Then on Monday, two items turned up in one day. An email arrived with this message:

“When you love someone, you're committed to their well-being; you would never dream of letting them live someplace where they didn't feel at home...

“Find the best senior housing for your loved ones at SeniorsforLiving.com.”

Crabby understands that it does sometimes fall to grown children to find living accommodations for their aging parents, most often when they are no longer capable of making decisions for themselves. But millions of elders find new homes ranging from age-limited communities for the 55-plus crowd, to various levels of independent living, clear up to planning for the possible need of assisted living, nursing and respite care.

The company that sent this email deals in all these possibilities. Plus, they call themselves SeniorsForLiving which sounds to Crabby like they are talking to her. But throughout the website, they spoke only to others.

A short while later, Crabby stopped by the AARP website where the day's featured story was titled, When Parents Need to Move. Wait a minute, thought Crabby. Isn't AARP's aim, goal, mission, etc. to represent the interests of people like herself - older than 50 - who are their members? People who join their organization of their own free will? People who pay their own membership dues?

So why are they, and why is SeniorsForLiving.com talking past Crabby Old Lady like she's not in the room?

Okay, 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds sometimes deal with ailing 80- and 90-year-old parents so a story about their need makes sense. But as anyone else in their sixties and older, Crabby is all too aware that she may need daily help caring for herself one day and it jars her sensibility to be left out of the conversation – especially from two organizations whose business is all old people all the time.

No one has trouble talking to Crabby Old Lady about anything else. Everywhere she turns, people urge her to color her gray hair, take up skydiving, embrace Twitter, buy a Kindle – you know, all that stuff that's supposed to make her appear younger.

But when it comes to the really important issues about getting old – like the possibility of waning health, for example – they refuse to directly address Crabby, as though she is already demented.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: It's Easy – You Can Do It


It's a marketing plan. As far as SeniorsforLiving, they are selling to people who need to help someone else, not you and all the other independent folks. I'm a 60-something trying to work out future housing for my 86-year-old parents. Actually, I'm learning a lot for my own future as we go . . so maybe that's part of their plan!

By the way, I love Crabby Old Lady. One of the things I feel about getting older is that I'm less free to speak my mind because critical comments are seen as just unwillingness to change.

I am already demented. I let you wave my flags for me while I prove my craziness by joining 150,000 others, of all ages, at Comic Con this weekend. No peace for the wicked here.

There used to be a programme on BBC radio here in the UK addressed to the disabled called, ironically, 'Does he take sugar'. It was remarkable how so many non-disabled people would write in regularly, baffled by the programme title...

Grrr, I believe AARP has redesigned itself for the younger baby boomers still working and perhaps with more money. Its just the tip o' the iceberg. The pithy articles on the matters of living for the over 65 crowd, and we are a growing crowd, are scarce or missing.

And,somewhere in the last two years I find my opinions on my health and body, which I have lived in for 68 years, ignored by medical personnel especially younger, 45 and down, men. I have severe arthritis in one foot and when referred to an orthopedist, we have no rheumatologist in our small, rural city, he x-rayed it and announced it was broken. He wanted to line me up for a cast, and osteoporosis treatments. I got a second opinion and a new x-ray, no break, just terrible arthritis and was greeted with a different treatment and much hostility. I'm sure he still thinks I'm a bi-ch, oh well. And Medicare still paid for three un-needed Dr. appointments and extra x-rays to resolve this. One appointment and a cortisone shot was all that was needed, perhaps that's why the Medicare budget is strained so.

It makes me pretty angry to be treated like a demented, gray haired child.

Not demented ... just crabby! Go get 'em!

Crabby Old Lady, you will like Baba Yaga, the protagonist in my play A New Wrinkle. In her song Baba Yaga's Raga, she says "expect respect/ it's what I get/ rash offenders are beheaded!"

Baba Yaga's fierce approach may seem outlandish and of course murderous and illegal, but as older adults we must develop strong, effective responses to being talked over, ignored or condescended to.

Hip Hop Elder is another character in my play. His rant covers what is wrong in the way our society treats elders. This is from the end of his song. "What do you expect at your age some bozo asks/seems he thinks I should shuffle like a misfit/the guy lacks wit/told that poor clueless schmoo I got my work to do/am agitating until eradication of this ageist shit/expect to be a righteous sage with a bit of an edge/I want my rights both human and civil/I'm on the level...

What strategies can we adopt as individuals and in groups to transform ageism, which is so pervasive and unchallenged?

I believe there is a presumption on the part of many we might view as our partners that we are incompetent. When I worked in a clinic, and when I took my mother to her appointments, time and again I saw health care professionals speaking to attendants as if the elder patient wasn't even there. One would hope that this would improve as the population gets older, but I haven't seen any evidence of it yet.

They're young. They can't imagine our world.

Thinking back 40 years when we had grandparents (instead of being grandparents), how much of their inner life could we understand? Remembering--ouch.

It's about age 40 when they start treating us, quite suddenly, as though we have no future, and probably about 20 years after that when they stop talking to us as sentinent beings at all.

Speak up--early, often, and with a list of questions fired fast, like a slightly annoyed school principal.

Went to get an ice cream downtown, walking along Ste. Catherine Street admiring an art display. Beautiful day. Asked the young ice cream clerk did they have coffee flavor? No, but the minute a younger dude handed $5 over the counter and yelled "chocolate," she served him.

I was pissed to the height of pisstofity. I followed the pony tailed clerk right into the store, behind the counter.

She turned around, saw me and froze.

"Why did you serve that guy? I was here first."

"You did not know what you wanted."

"I asked for coffee ice cream, you said you didn't have it, then I would have gone to vanilla. But you saw a senior woman, money and who cared about me."

I told her to go do something Cirque Soleil with her body.

Two blocks later, I saw a home made ice cream shop. Went in, ordered coffee, was served politely by a senior woman, the owner.

I sat down outside, thought about life, made my mind up once again to hit ageism back every single time.

Want my money?

Treat me nice.

I never looked at it this way and I am afraid you are correct! Egad.

Doctafill, great story. Ugh, bad experience though. Sigh.

I believe that Paula is onto something good when she advises to speak up early often and firing questions fast like an annoyed high school principle. I love that. We are in the unenviable position of being anti-ageism pioneers. Somebody's got to do it and it looks like it's us.

Well perhaps if a few hundred of us were to pummel the AARP folks with emails about their latest mag cover we'd get noticed. You think? I do love Valerie Bertinelli (on the mag cover)but she really doesn't represent any elder that I know. Shucks, she looks like my kid! Dee

When I was younger I used to take my grandmother, then in her late 80s, out to lunch every week. "And what will she have?" the waitress would often ask me. "I can talk!" Grandma would snap. She was always an outspoken woman, and age certainly didn't blunt that. Her retorts, which, depending on her mood, would sometimes escalate into "I'm not deaf and dumb, you know!" and "Do I look stupid to you?"

I like to think that a few of those waitresses learned a thing or two about aging from my grandma. Though at 68 I'm just beginning to get that kind of treatment--clerks' eyes sort of gazing past me, that kind of thing--I do intend to continue her tradition when the time comes.

Yes, for several years the AARP seems to have gone over to the youthful middle-aged and pretty much ignores us elders. I don't know anybody who looks like Valerie Bertinelli except spokespersons for weight-loss programs or phony age-reversing skin regimens. It would be nice to see actual older persons on those covers.

I certainly have heard people address not the actual patient but their child or helper. At my medical office, where the doctors and nurses actually are very respectful, they are quite surprised when I call anything by its "right name." Am I a retired nurse? Even there, they don't expect us elders to have much brain wattage.

Elsewhere, a cardiologist spoke so loudly to me he must have thought all older people are deaf. He was angry when I wouldn't take an unnecessary test. Guess he also thought all older people are sheep.

We should do as doctafill did and take our business where we're treated well.

You've all said it so well that there is little to add except that this has sent me raving for years. I'm with Baba Yaga -- I hope you've put her in a house with chicken legs though. Tradition must be served.

Well said!!!! Keep giving 'em hell!!!

"COL", you are so right! I joined AARP 23 years ago when I was 50, and I feel that they're still speaking to the me I was then. Not that I'm so very different now, but I am--dare I say it?--older! At 73 I'm not as concerned about rebuilding my 403(b) as I am about making it last as long as I do. There's not a lot of discussion about subjects dealing with the realities of living older.

And I so agree that virtually none of us over-65 women looks like Valerie Bertinelli, although many of us could probably improve our health and appearance by losing a few pounds, as she did. I do the best I can with what remains of the physical me, but no one would ever mistake me for 50!

The only way we'll get through this aging thing with a scrap of dignity intact is to keep on giving 'em hell--and spending our money for goods and services where people look and talk TO, not at, us. We've earned the right to be treated decently--as long as we remember to be pleasant to deal with.

It sounds more like LivingForSeniors, which is exactly what I don't want my kids to do.

Brenda, Of course Baba Yaga has her traditional house--as the song goes "My house stands up on chicken legs/it twirls and never sleeps/it makes a fearful frightening sound/that gives the people creeps/and that's all right, yes that's okay with me!" Then of course she laughs.

I'm not sure that "giving them hell" and insulting people (even after they've offended) is the best way to earn people's respect, is it? I agree with the idea of speaking up and educating people, but much of what I read in the comments above seems more vengeful than instructive.

This reminds me of the way whenever I was with my mother in law people would always talk to me about her instead of addressing her.
However, no one ever does this to my 90 year old aunt. I can't figure out what the difference is. My aunt does not assert herself in any obvious way, but she commands attention and respect.

It starts in your 50's when you become "invisible." I never thought I'd miss the hoots and leers of construction workers, but last week, feeling very spiffy in my new summer frock, I was pissed that the workers ignored me. I thought I looked pretty hot. Not Valerie Bertinelli hot, but still.......

a/b, their loss!

COL, I haven't been to a consciousness-raising group meeting in 35 years and I didn't know how much I'd missed them! I also miss being on the leading edge of something--and, lo!, Baba Yaga reminds me that I already am.

This is the leading edge of a tsunami of elder-awareness. With a cohort the size of this one, I defy the country to remain as ignorant and prejudiced as they've been.

To the keyboards, Comrades!

Melanie, there are ways to give 'em hell besides insults. When it's possible, one way is to take our business somewhere else and, very calmly, explain why on the way out. You're right that we probably won't garner much respect by validating the witch-on-a-broom perception some have of us older women, but I do think we can raise our visibility and stand up for ourselves. Hattie's aunt must have a secret for commanding attention and respect. I'd like to know what it is--excellent grooming, posture, bearing, expression, body language? All that and more? In any event, I'm for joining Nance on the keyboards!

My aunt is receptive and approachable. She wears a hearing aid so that she can hear people. Other people interest her. Maybe that's the secret.

Everything is geared for Boomers -- not much of anything for my group -- we just write comments.

I think people should start blowing the stigmas that come with old age out of the water. Address them head-on and call people out on them when they avoid topics because of someone else's fear.

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