Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Will we ever get it?

I'm trying to wrap my head around the ageism in our society.

I just don't get it. Why on Earth do so many people, especially their own children (my parents' generation!) behave as if every elderly person is losing their marbles?

I've come the conclusion that this belief; that all those older than us are inferior intellects, is just an ingrained trait in humans. We ALL delude ourselves.

C'mon, admit it.... when you were young (when did it start... pre-teen, teen?) you thought your parents were completely out of it. They didn't GET it, they couldn't understand.... they were just too old.

And now that we're the parents, realization dawns: We are, in fact, not less capable just because we've aged into adulthood. Our intellects have not diminished with each grey hair that sprouts on our head - and we certainly are not "out of it". It may take us a little more time to fully grasp and begin to take advantage of new technologies.... things we've never encountered before, but we're still as smart as we ever were (smarter, in fact, because we have some life experience to go along with our smart-alec selves).

It may be slightly embarrassing that our own children, weaned on micro-chips it seems, can grasp new products with a speed and facility greater even than ours, but it certainly doesn't make us stupid!

Even when the rolling of our own kids' eyes is now telling us that they believe differently.

So, for a while I guess, we commiserate with our parents, maybe even apologize.... and they laugh their assess off as they watch us dealing with these younger versions of ourselves.

Only, at some point, we must forget that lesson. I think the cycle starts all over again.... and people start to talk down to their parents again as they age - behave in a condescending manor towards the seniors in their lives, even if they're unaware that they're doing it.

It's maddening. People have to stop. We just have to recognize that it's normal to be over-whelmed by technology never before experienced in your lifetime - whatever age you might be when faced with it.... we humans are not as quick to adapt to change as we like to profess.

Just as it does not make us idiots that we don't instantly grasp every feature on our new iphone the day we get it, neither does it make an elderly person stupid or senile because they can't grasp the intricacies of something new to them, (that we pass off as simplistic): like Internet banking.

And just like we want to wipe that know-it-all look off our kid's face when the eyes are rolling in our direction, I can't believe more elderly people aren't slapping us for the condescending tones they have to put up with on a daily basis from most middle-aged people! (maybe they secretly want to, but are constrained by the manners of an earlier generation too!)

Maybe having my 84 year old mother-in-law living with me for a while, or taking my Grandmother out more often recently has sensitized me to the issue.... but I just shake my head and wonder what the heck is WITH some people?

Case in point: I took my Grandmother to the bank today. They'd made a mistake when she did a bill payment earlier in the month and sent her payment to someone else's account. She wanted it reversed and corrected so her bill was the one credited with the payment. Pretty cut and dry.

I just dropped her off and ran to handle an errand of my own, then I returned and went into the bank to see if she was done.

From the minute I sat down beside her, the teller ceased communicating with my Grandmother and started directing her explanations to me.

Why? The situation had NOTHING to do with me.... and my Grandmother had been handling everything fine without me up until then! I thought she was incredibly rude.

And the tone of voice?? OMG... I'm sure she meant to sound sweet and caring, but she was really just down right insulting - the tone of voice she used, and the pace of her words and clarity in enunciation were the exact way one would express things clearly to a toddler!

Talking a little louder, slowing down the spacing between words.... I think someone needed to explain to her that grey hair is NOT a direct indicator of deafness! At one point she even interrupted her overly-thorough explanation to my Grandmother in order to address me directly (as an aside... like my Grandma couldn't hear):

"If she has any trouble understanding what we've done, just tell her that.... blah, blah, blah..."

"Why??", I couldn't help but counter, "She's not deaf!"

And my Grandmother just absorbed it and didn't get ruffled at all. I couldn't believe it.... I was supremely annoyed on her behalf, but she was so used to it that it didn't even faze her anymore. I asked her if she gets treated that way alot and she said "all the time".

And I know it's true... because I see it with her, and with my mother-in-law, and with the elderly clients I serve who bring their adult children with them to appointments. I swear, all around me people are turning back into those eye-rolling teenagers again.

And they think they're right, this time.

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