The Longevity Prescription of Dr. Robert Butler: Set Stress Aside
Elders Should Not Be the Enemy

Fed Up with Elders Today

For seven years on this blog, I have worked my ass off to defend elders against ageism and discrimination, to lobby for our inclusion in the mainstream and stand up against those who would deny us those rights. But it's becoming harder every day to feel good about what I do.

I am deeply embarrassed when I repeatedly see the oceans of gray hair at the love Glenn Beck/hate President Obama and Tea Party rallies.

When the signs they carry aren't spouting ignorance of the definitions of socialism and Communism, they are filled with blind hatred, comparing the president to Hitler. If not that, they say stupendously stupid things like, “Take your government hands off my Medicare.” And some of them wear teeshirts warning they are prepared for armed revolution.

Then there are the signs supporting repeal of what they call Obamacare, the modest reform package that, in time, will help millions (if not all) younger people who cannot otherwise afford it to buy health coverage. How dumb – or mean – do you have to be to not want to extend the kind of care you have to everyone in the United States?

Does it really come down to, “I've got mine and screw you, my child”?

At this point in writing today's post, news of a new poll dropped in my inbox showing that 58 percent of Americans, including 42 percent of those 65 and older, support proposals to allow “younger workers to invest some of their Social Security tax dollars in private retirement accounts, including stocks and mutual funds.”

Does that mean nearly half of Social Security recipients can't remember 2008 when elders collectively lost an estimated $2 trillion of our savings – mostly from stocks and mutual funds? And that they would inflict that on their adult children and grandchildren?

It is (almost) understandable that 70 percent of 20-somethings in the poll support privatization of Social Security (although you have to wonder if they know anything at all about how their grandparents live). But those 42 percent of elders don't have the excuse of youthful stupidity which the kids, at least, have time to outgrow.

Here are some examples from the 9/12 rally last Sunday that set me off on this rant. All three are copyright by ninetwelvephotos at Flickr.

Obama the Terrorist

Mickey Mouse Rude Gesture

Obama Treason

I said above I am embarrassed by these elders, but it is worse than that: I am ashamed. And I am in a very bad mood.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jerry Rasmussen: Proud Poppa


Every month when I receive notice from my bank that my Social Security check has been safely deposited in my account,I thank God that some stupid President,during my lifetime, hadn't successfully passed that bill that allowed me to invest my SS funds in Enron or Lucent stock......

About the ignorant Tea Party, sign carrying, Glenn Beck fans:

"Once in Persia reigned a king,
Who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel at a glance
Fit for every change and chance.
Solemn words, and these are they,
“ Even this shall pass away.”

I am disillusioned too and with our country as a whole. Who are those in Delaware who just voted in a tea partier to run for Senate who has never done anything except prove she can mismanage her own funds? Will she actually win a Senate seat in November? It's happening all across the country and not just the elders voting for these people although it seems those 'elders' are most susceptible to being manipulated and they are the most irritating to me based on things like you mentioned. What I wonder is not just who they are but who we are as a people? It does prove one thing, age alone doesn't necessarily grant wisdom...

This has been true at the local level, too, for as long as I can remember. Old people don't want their taxes increased to pay for schools, youth programs, drug prevention or treatment and such. That $50 they hold onto (or whatever piddling amount it is that they don't have to pay) is more important to them than the general welfare of the community they live in. I saw it happen at a local elementary school recently when seniors banded together to cut almost all "frills" at the only school in a small town. They eliminated art, music, field trips, most physical education, to save themselves a few dollars. Some parents enrolled their kids in neighboring towns, paid the differene and drove them to school every day. Others moved out of the district. Finally parents banded together to provide those educational elements to the kids themselves, as volunteers.
Look at Florida, New Hampshire and other states with large numbers of retirees. Most don't collect income tax and/or sales tax, so you know their services to everyone will be minimal. Everyone loses when one we pit generations against each other, and the Boomers outnumber almost any other group.

I live in an area in Eastern Washington where things are going well - high employment, houses selling etc. This is all because of government money for Hanford cleanup and research at PNNL, one of our national labs. Yet....the Tea Party reigns here. There was a lot of support here for Clint Didier, a former Seattle SeaHawk who was endorsed by Sarah P. I just don't understand it.

I understand your frustration, but I firmly believe that "stupid" is an equal-opportunity adjective. If these Tea Party seniors are indeed wiser now that they're older, can you imagine how stupid they were when they were young?

Substitute the word "greedy" for "stupid" in the two sentences above and the logic still works.

I am deeply frustrated by right-wing extremists of ALL ages -- and also by those among us who rely on FOX for their so-called news.

I see the Tea Baggers as unmoored boats who are easily steered by savvy (and slimey) political commanders.

And, it appears their main and only agenda is to sabatoge Obama. Period.

Mutiny on the high seas with a boatload of lives in the balance.

Hate and ignornance are traits humans can't seem to overcome...more than just unfortunate.

Will be our demise.

I agree with Cowtown Pattie. The only logic seems to be anti-Obama. When politicians oppose something today that they favored a few months ago, the reversal can only be explained by a desire to gain power. The common good, principle, history, none of that matters.

Is there room on the "bad mood couch" for me? The results of the Delaware primary have me grinding my teeth. Selfish, ignorant, media savvy -- isn't age supposed to come with wisdom sitting in the rumble seat, urging us to put aside puerile behavior and reflect on what was and what will be? Like Linda, I wonder how stooopid they were in their youth. It's so easy to be "against" something, but the candidates they've found don't seem to be "for" anything at all.

I'm glad to have company on the couch. Thanks, again, Ronni.

It has been my experience that if a young person never learned to think, they carried that trait to their graves. I do not believe that age necessarily grants wisdom.

Because I am very old and have kept in touch with the people I grew up with, I have a yardstick to measure them by. They are still the same now as they were when they were young, only with wrinkles. One friend was easily manipulated by everyone and she still is. Others were superficial and they still are. It's depressing to find that they have learned so little.

I know they are not necessarily the norm, but those in the Tea Party certainly never learned to think for themselves. And, because they are elders, they add a feeling of entitlement to their ignorance and it's downright disgusting.

Well, on the funny side, I'm enjoying watching the Republicans trying to control this tiger they've got by the tail. They wanted Sarah Palin - and boy, did they get her! has daily chats about, well just about everything. They have a politics chat throughout the week and just got through reading todays. I copied a Republican's lament that I'm posting below:
Done with it
Chris, You know that scene early on in "Legends of the Fall", where a disheartened, disgusted Anthony Hopkins takes his cavalry saber and just sticks it in the ground in the midst of a destroyed Indian village, and he just walks away from it, as in just done with it, just disgusted with the actions of those who he was working with? As a Republican, that's how it feels in the wake of Castle's loss. I never threw my hands up in disgust at where the party, and the conservative movement, was going...until now. I'm done. I'm now an Independent
Ronni, you are not alone!

I agree with Darlene, learning to think is key. An outing to my 45th high school reunion (the first and last) was shocking in how little anyone had changed mentally or personality-wise. The thoughtful, caring people still were, the jerks were jerks. I still haven't recovered from Bush getting elected twice or the fact that so many would vote for him.

In today's political climate, George W. Bush is beginning to look like a moderate.

Did you see the right-wing attacks on Karl Rove today for telling Sean Hannity last night that Delaware Tea Party winner, Christine O'Donnell is nuts?

When I was in my 40s I worked in a senior citizens program in a small town where most of the seniors had been childhood classmates. One of the elderly ladies told me a wise thing. She said, "When you get old you don't get wiser you just get more, more gentle, more kind, or more stupid. Whatever traits these people have now are just more or what they were like when they were younger."

I agree that this sort of thing is depressing and makes me want to avoid the news. But to balance things out a bit, there's a woman in my town who is 91 and for 50 or 60 years has been standing up for progressive causes, along with a group of peers now in their 60s, 70s, 80s, & 90s. She began with the anti-nuclear arms protests in the '50s and has kept on going. People like her don't get the press attention that these yahoos do--but she was recently profiled in the Boston Globe.

The only time I have felt truly humiliated by my gray hair is the prospect that someone might judge me to be one of "them."

Despite a sturdy constitution and near-perfect health, I have been tripped up by bureaucratic craziness in health insurance numerous times over a 40-year period. I have little confidence in the "system" and its myriad loopholes for good reason.

That's why I, too, completely fail to comprehend Tea Partiers' rabid hostility to the most modest of reforms. What happy health care Disneyland could THEY been living in for 50-plus years?

Their venom tells me, too, that it's not really about health care.

Oh Ronni
Don't let THEM get to you.
It is not just because they are OLD.
They are old and STUPID.

Elders don't have a monopoly on stupid. Stupid affects all ages.

Shouting at THEM is like shouting at a brick wall.

Yep. The population is in a sour mode because of unemployment and the economy. They are disappointed that the new admin can't perform a miracle recovery which doesn't require sacrifice and hard work on all of our parts. Most importantly most of us don't want to accept responsibility for the decisions of the past that have put us in this mess.

So you get stupid responses like the Tea Party. And demagogues like Beck and the rest of the Fox crew.

Most people are sheep and are to stupid or lazy to think. In general I think we are getting what we deserve.

God help us all!

The Belgian singer/songwriter, Jacques Brel nailed it when he wrote "Les bourgeois sont comme les cochons, plus qu'il viens vieux, plus qu'il viens bete"!
Translation: the bourgeois are like pigs, the older they get, the stupider they become. We frequently make the mistake of assuming that we grow in intelligence and wisdom with the passage of time but unfortunately this is rarely if ever the case. What the current crop of American Know-Nothings share is just simple fear and gullibility (perfect tools for the ultra-rich who must, at all costs, stop all efforts to threaten their right to pillage the country for thier own economic gain)

Disgusting it's true. Unbelievable. Selfish, unaware, embarassing, ignorant older people. I'm with you.

No matter what their age, older or younger-- these bigoted are some of what makes me think regularly of leaving the US.

I proudly consider myself "progressive" but somewhere along the way it has become a dirty word. I don't understand why. Gladys

Especially the ones who went to college on the VA program, get a government pension, are on social security and medicare, went to public schools, use VA hospitals, and then declare themselves self-made men who never took a dime from the government and want others to keep their hands off of "their" medicare...

The absence of critical thinking in the 'sheeple' old or young is very evident, raised to an overwhelming tide by Faux News and puppets, Glenn Beck and his ilk.
But the elephant in the room is rarely talked about: racism, thinly disguised racism.
Ugly, ugly stuff.

We sure throw around the term stupid and ignorant a lot around here.

You have all left out the most relevant justification for the rant by the right---RACISM.

I don't think the word is "stupid" -- it's definitely uninformed and in many cases as someone suggested it's greedy. But the emotion that drives all of it is fear. Fear is the easiest emotion for the irresponsible SOBs in the media to stir up. It began in earnest with 9/11 -- not that it wasn't very much a part of many previous political activities.

Now we are afraid to let any child play alone [although we played in fields and woods aone], we are afraid of every germ and have made Purell available everywhere, we are afraid of the word "tax" and we have allowed commentators to make us afraid of every political change. Examples spring to mind from here to tomorrow. It's sad, it's awful, it makes me angry and sometimes depressed that so many people are so easily manipulated into acting so ignorantly. I fear for the coming elections.

June -- you've really nailed that about fear. Peter Beinert, a bright young twerp (smile), just wrote something excellent about how the fear is working in our politics here.

Also -- on Saturday, I went to public outdoor reading of the Qu'ran in Berkeley where all sorts of people came together to say "no" to hate. I remember thinking -- but so many are so old ... We do after all have our wise ones, including at least one who spoke who was a refugee from the European Holocaust. I took a lot of pictures including one that features a 90+ Jewish friend (smart enough to bring a stool, natch) posted here. Sometimes we get it that we all have to live together.

Yeah, those older Tea Party people not only disgust me...but scare me. In fact, the entire "Tea Party" mess scares me.

At any rate, late to comment...but found an article in NYT with Woody Allen and thought this part was appropriate to your post:

Q. How do you feel about the aging process?

A. Well, I’m against it. [laughs] I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again. I’ve experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver.

Apparently he has a new movie coming out, thus the article. Here's the link to the interview:

(Used to be a big fan of his, not sure how I feel now after the Mia Farrow episode.)

Thank you for posting your thoughts on this issue. You have totally expressed my views and I am so frustrated about the political scene and how the Republicans fanned the flames of prejudice and greed. It is definitely the age of "something for nothing."

I wonder if this hasn't always been true - wise or foolish rather than young or old? My family, God Bless Them, were dyed-in-the-wool racist bigots, have ever been so and will probably go into the light, declaring their hatred for them "liberals, commies, blacks..." The list is endless and ever changing. The only thing that doesn't change is the name of the recent person/thing/ group to hate.
Alas, nothing new under the sun.

The problem with the Tea Party gang is not only that they're uninformed, but they're proud of it (just ask them). Being proud of being uninformed seems pretty close to stupid in my view. I, too, find it very difficult to understand why so many older Americans seem to have taken leave of their senses, politically speaking. As another responder noted, most of them receive Social Security, are on Medicare and went to public schools. Many attended college on the GI Bill and bought their first homes with government-backed loans. When needed, they call city-funded police and fire departments for help. Totally self-reliant? I don't think so!

None of us can stand entirely on his/her own; a healthy society is functionally interdependent. The Tea Party bunch does not seem to understand that. I have a plan! Why not set aside Texas (which wants to secede anyway according to Governor Rick Perry) for everyone who thinks they can live strictly on their own? No armed forces, no police, no fire department, no public health clinics, no public schools, no food or water inspectors; in other words, NO government or government services. And, of course, no taxes. Wonder how long that society would endure?

I've learned I'm pretty isolated in my community with my views. Some years ago became disillusioned with belonging to any political party and now the Independents are corrupted with the Teapot people making it just a part of the extremist elephant group.

I keep up with all angles of what's happening but don't subject myself to the known ragers, fact-twisters and blatant liars who send my blood pressure through the top of my head.

Thank heavens for some family, friends, though they're not close by, who are sane rational logical thinkers capable of long range views. TGB becomes more of an oasis.

One wonders if we are witnessing the death throes of the Republican Party. With the nut jobs increasingly gaining power, there is little chance the GOP can attract enough thoughtful voters to win national elections in the future.

The party may do well this November because circumstances are somewhat unusual, but that could be the last time.

I think that many young people buy into the myth that Social Security is nearly broke. Like most conservative economic postions, this one gets supported with cherry-picked data that takes time to refute (like a flat tax, which would be a catastrophe for anyone not among the super rich).

As for the elderly opposition to the health care law that plugs the Medicare Part D hole, well let's face it: This is about race and the elderly are no less susceptible to racism than anyone else.

Thank you for taking the words right out of my head and heart and sharing them more eloquently that I could have. My frustration is at an all time high and at the same time I feel helpless as I watch sheer hate and ignorance reign. I keep trying to understand the motivation and position of these Teapots and other radical haters, and I can't seem to crack the code. I know that Action is the Antidote to Despair (thank you Joan Baez) but can't seem to find the right actions right now.

I believe in civility, in equal opportunity, in sharing, caring, and loving your neighbor as yourself. I want to push past this ignorant hating and raving and help rational thinking and informed debate save our country – and our collective future.

I watch as my loved ones in my extended family join the rage and hate and the only thing that I can hear them saying – when they are not calling me misguided – because heaven knows they wouldn’t want to have a conversation about what they believe, only an argument and name calling fest – is that they want to keep what they have for themselves, and everyone who has anything else to say is WRONG.

I hear you all saying that fear is the basis for this behavior, but honestly I am afraid. Afraid that logic and reason will not win, afraid that the country will be torn apart by this ignorance, afraid that my children and grandchildren will have a living hell to live through, and more than that – afraid that I can’t find a way to help.

Shove over, y'all. I want to share a seat on the couch, please.

Why don't you send this to every newspaper so more people will be exposed to some sensible thinking. Where do we vent our anger? If more of us spoke up, perhaps those idiots might feel there is a tide rising against them and have a second thought!!

I am very afraid also. There have always been stupid people but now they have a voice. I am also stunned by the belief that some of these people seem to have that lower taxes will help promote anything except bad roads, closed schools and fewer services. How short-sighted. I just saw a show on Pol Pot & his killing fields and it made me think that the TeaParty people will leave killing fields also but they will be filled with people who were cut down by lack of funds and health care. Very depressing.

When I hear those comments and see those folks with the signs and the agitation, it just makes me feel frustrated and fed up with the overwhelming ignorance out there, the 'fight' mentality, the wholesale unconsciousness. All we can do personally, is step outside the room - look at what's going on - and keep our judgments, anger, and sadness as pity for them without bringing it into our present moment and awareness.

Thank you, Ronni, for the rant. Thank all of you for your comments. I don't feel so alone any more.

Here is another point: what about the shadowy or not so shadowy manipulators with megabucks who support tea party activities as well creating and supporting noble sounding organizations that promote their agendas of hate and fear.

The tea party mentality is driven by fear. 9/11 had a huge impact on people. I have a friend who was very liberal and an ardent environmentalist who, after 9/11, had a complete turnaround. She started listening only to Fox news and believed all of the lies and nonsense there. It became impossible to have a rational conversation with her. I find that really frightening. Also it is very thinly disguised racism that is growing everywhere, whether against Obama or the entire population of Muslims in this country. Shades of the Japanese internment camps come to mind.

The teapartiers are a joke. I think our fear of them is misplaced. Hate yes, fear no. Give them enough rope, I say. Their latest "triumph" in Delaware will bring them down. The winner is a woman who believes masturbation is a sin! And she is stupid and vapid right on the face of it with that sappy little Christian smile and the little girl voice. Yuck.
You know, we can go ahead and say what we think without reference to our age, can't we? I refuse to stand for anything because of my age, which is only one thing about me.
Let's not let ourselves be intimidated here. We are not responsible for the way these horses' patooties behave.

Stupidity does not discriminate by age. These folks just have more time because they are retired (thanks, partially, to Uncle Sam, I presume) and have nothing better to do. YOu would think, though, wouldn't you, that time had taught them SOMETHING.

I too am in a bad mood.

I share your pain. I see these idiots and wonder what happened to us along the road.

Then again, I'm working for my Congressmen's re-election campaign and about half his most loyal, dedicated volunteers are elders like me. Not all of us are nuts.

We understand what's happening in this country and we are mad as hell!

A group of these folk stand with their hate-full signs every weekend on a busy hot corner in Fort Lauderdale. There are times when I feel like getting out of my car to slap any one of them silly. But, of course, they already are. But what can one conclude of people who don't know enough to get out of the heat when it's 100?

Thanks for the opp to rant.

Thanks to you, Ronni and to all who commented here -- I guess we're all in a bad mood about the state of this country. I'm disgusted and discouraged to think that if you have enough money, you can buy the votes - and I totally agree that if you dig down deep enough into this dung heap, you'll find simmering therein a lot of anger about a black man being elected President. Racism is not a thing of the past in this country; it is alive and flourishing. "They" lost the election but they're still working to defeat him. How sad is that?

Another word comes to mind "sheep"...

I suspect that elders will be vilified in this debacle but I don't feel fear. This is not a good time to indulge in fear, in my opinion. Young people are going to need support at some point to put this whole crisis into perspective. When they mobilize to deal with this mess, we had better have our sharpened sticks and pitchforks ready to ally with them in force. I see a wash of hot water and a receding tide of crumpled and spent outdated prejudices.

Something as sophomoric as outdated sexual/gender issues and bigotry is going to be met with a mighty rage from these young people. That is my hope. They are just not paying attention right now because they are busy being young and this stupid posturing not worth notice to them. I'm perhaps an idiot but I have faith in the spirit of the youth of America. I was there when they stormed the streets screaming and running banging pots and pans for their very lives at the victory of Obama. It went on for hours. I know there are also pockets of youth who are focused on hate but they are not majority.

I'm sitting back on my sack of seeds and trying to remain ready. I am betting on the belief that love and the perseverance of truth wins in the end.

I haven't visited for a while, Ronni, but Kay reminded us to read this entry. I'll be back soon. I just put a reference to your blog up at Facebook.

I could not possibly agree with you more, Ronni! And thank you for putting my own sentiments so eloquently. Damn it all, are we really this dumb? After all these years?

I carefully planned my retirement so that I could leave my children 100% of my principle and live frugally on the income from it. That plan was busted. Wide. Open.

I don't want to be this mad.

So everyone's blood pressure can go down a bit whilst the mood elevates and hope peeks back through, please make this your regular daily first stop (and $upport if you can):

Part of the difficulty is being caught up in a semi-permanent state of foot stomp by our own preoccupation with mainstream media. There are some wonderful things going on all over the USA & world -- and grayheads are there.

We need daily doses of up, so here's one more:

Ah. There. Doesn't that help?

Trying to follow.
70% of young people believe a stupid thing. 42% of old people believe it. You're fed up with the old people?

I think you're nearly smart enough to speak at a tea bagger rally - just maybe a touch dumber than Victoria Jackson.

My biggest worry when Pres. Obama was elected was that many would expect him to solve everything by the next day. My mother, who was always a died in the wool Liberal Democrat now believes that the Obama Death Squads are coming to get her. I expect that if any of the Tea Party candidates get elected they will be either ineffective or will really screw things up. Then the Tea Partyers will blame that on Obama.

The rabid racist ranters have been with us especially in the south where it was connected with violence and terrorism. Important despite the photos not to connect this with elders as I am an elder too. It would be easy for FOX and the right-wing wealthy to use the generations as a wedge issue. Despite the ugliness I saw in the south in my youth, we never had destructive media like FOX and friends. We are ripe for violence and that worries me the most.

Gee, don't these geezers care if young people die and don't pay in to the social security fund to support them? (He says, as he checks his bank online to see if his SS payment has been deposited).

@Targhee, check out

What is the point of perpetuation more of this US vs THEM crap. The Teabaggers are a loud mouthed tiny minority of the voters and some of them are ignorant old people who were once ignorant young people. I'm sick of pitting artificially formed groups against one another. The Senior Citizens you see spouting racist, ignorant, BS are no more representative of the Senior Citizens of this country than the Skinhead youth represent the youth of America.

Aren't these the same generation that went to Woodstock? Did they forget everything that they fought and rallied for? The eerily similar wars we always seem to have? I'm 50, and I thought it would have been cool to be born 10 years earlier. It's very confusing.

This is five years down the road now and we are seeing the same stupidity....Donald Trump...I see a lot of elders rallying behind him and Ted Cruz...interestingly young people like Bernie Saunders.
In my area lifelong democrats that are helped by social services are switching to the GOP as their fear of Muslims is stoked and their ill conceived fundamentalist views against gay marriage and freedom of choice for women are also stoked with fire and brimstone. I too am ashamed and embarrassed.

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