Some TGB readers (and many other elders) do not believe in ageism. Whenever I write about the demeaning slights, substandard medical care, failure to hire due to gray hair and wrinkles, cutesy-poo language that infantilizes all elders, they dismiss it as unimportant or, even, that I'm misreading it.
Undoubtedly, many are the same people who are appalled by the alleged sexist treatment of women by Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and the self-confessed groping of women by our current president, along with the ongoing struggle of women to achieve parity with men in the working world.
There is no doubt in my mind that these people are also horrified by white supremacists and would bite their tongues off before uttering the N word.
But ageism? Doesn't exist or if it does, it is not on a par with racism, sexism, heterosexism and all the other hateful -isms.
A large part of ageism denial is that we hear it many times every day in print, on television and in casual conversation from the cradle and no one ever calls it out as is commonly done in response to sexism and racism. Another reason is that it often sounds too benign to be as contemptible as those other slurs.
As I've mentioned here in the past, I record most of the monologues of the late night talk show hosts because I can't stay up that late but they are among the best, sharpest commentators we have on our frightful predicament with President Trump. And they are also among the worst ageism offenders.
Hardly a night of the week goes by without one (or more) of the hosts denigrating old people or growing old in general. “He's so old...” Jay Leno once called Senator John McCain's presidential campaign the Antiques Roadshow.
It even shows up regularly on cable news. During Hurricane Irma, MSNBC host Ali Velshi explained that he wanted the audience to understand how experienced reporter Sam Champion is because he's been covering hurricanes for 30 years.
“I hate to say that,” said Velshi to Champion, “but you look terrific for your years.” The ultimate compliment in ageist America – to look younger than you are.
That anecdote explains why so many old people deny the ageism that denigrates them and all old people; it just seems so friendly and harmless. But let me be clear: repeated dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of times a day, it reminds everyone that elders are not equal with younger adults or, even, children.
The reason I'm banging on about this today is that sometimes – so rarely that it is a major media event to a blog like this that takes as its subject growing old – someone fights back.
This time, it was Saturday Night Live last weekend in a skit that takes place in a retirement community. It makes all the points that I make but unlike me, they make you laugh too.
The skit stars Kate McKinnon as the old woman, that evening's host, comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani as the retirement home attendant, along with Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner as the grandchildren of the old woman.
PS: As serendipity would have it, on Tuesday Medical News Today published a report of a study suggesting that frequent sex may help old brains work better. Who knows if the result will hold up over time, but here are the details.