Age discrimination, the last bastion of bigotry

My hair's getting thinner, my body is not; The few teeth I have are beginning to rot. I smell of Vick's—Vapo—Rub, not Chanel # 5; My new pacemaker's all that keeps me alive. When asked of my past, every detail I'll know, but what was I doing 10 minutes ago?

I get up each morning, and dust off my wits, pick up my paper and read the "obits". If my name is missing, I know I'm not dead, so I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.

—Anonymous author

Although the foregoing is meant to be humorous, it gives a stereotypical image of old age that puts 'seniors' in a category that makes them perfect candidates for discrimination. As in all forms of bigotry, the idea is to find a few negative characteristics of the people you want to belittle, then confine them to a niche that allows the bigot to feel justified in his analysis of their treatment.

If you've reached your 50's, 60's, or beyond, and are lucky enough to be in good physical shape, you're not likely to hear someone say how good you look without adding, 'for your age.' The same applies to your mental acuity. How often have you heard, 'That guy still has a quick wit for someone in his 80's?' The fact is, he may have a quicker wit than many in their 30's, but no one would tell a 30 year—old that he or she is witty for their age. Nor would they remark that they're in good shape for their 30's.

We've heard references to 'the declining years' when the topic is people over 65. Yet, I've known people 20 or 30 years younger who were in decline because of poor health habits or reckless lifestyles. Many of them never reached 65; their 'decline' ended before 40. Others could be considered 'old before their time,' based on a poor attitude and a lack of enthusiasm for living.

Contrariwise, I've known people in their 90's who have a lust for life and a sense of humor that would make most '30 somethings' envious. In addition, some people are genetically superior to others; giving them several decades more ebullience than their contemporaries. However, that doesn't stop society from tucking them away neatly into that calcified concept of chronological correctness. Sadly, due to this tidy system of human compartmentalization, people expect you to act in a certain way, at a certain age. That is, unless you're wealthy and/or famous.

My mother used to say if you're poor and behave oddly, they refer to you as crazy, but if you're rich and act the same way, they say you're eccentric. That's discrimination based on one's financial situation. However, the same could be said about one's numerical situation. If a 'young' man behaves erratically it's viewed as youthful indiscretion; the very same antics by his grandfather would make him a candidate for a 'nursing home,' and a drawer full of medication.

People expect you to act in accordance with the classification to which you have been assigned. The same is expected of minority groups. Each race and nationality has been given character traits that would make the bigot very uneasy if those traits were not adhered to. Italians are frequently cast as gangsters in the reel world; their academic and corporate successes in the real world notwithstanding.

Recently, a very sharp and politically savvy octogenarian acquaintance of mine said, 'Bob, modern medicine has found a way to keep us alive and healthy for many years past the traditional retirement age, but, now they don't know what to do with us.' Well, they had better find out soon because those so called 'baby boomers' and their parents are about to become the dominant voting bloc in the country. Furthermore, that age group is much more likely to vote than their much younger counterparts.

A few weeks ago, in a communication from a political action committee, the subject of senior housing was addressed. The first sentence began with, 'a suitable place must be found.' Such phraseology is more than condescending, it relegates age group accommodations to the level of an animal shelter or a maximum security prison; society must keep them at a 'suitable' distance. Moreover, it sends a clear message that the older one gets, the less worth is attributed to them.

That will soon change when a massive voting bloc elects people who respect their elders. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

My hair's getting thinner, my body is not; The few teeth I have are beginning to rot. I smell of Vick's—Vapo—Rub, not Chanel # 5; My new pacemaker's all that keeps me alive. When asked of my past, every detail I'll know, but what was I doing 10 minutes ago?

I get up each morning, and dust off my wits, pick up my paper and read the "obits". If my name is missing, I know I'm not dead, so I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.

—Anonymous author

Although the foregoing is meant to be humorous, it gives a stereotypical image of old age that puts 'seniors' in a category that makes them perfect candidates for discrimination. As in all forms of bigotry, the idea is to find a few negative characteristics of the people you want to belittle, then confine them to a niche that allows the bigot to feel justified in his analysis of their treatment.

If you've reached your 50's, 60's, or beyond, and are lucky enough to be in good physical shape, you're not likely to hear someone say how good you look without adding, 'for your age.' The same applies to your mental acuity. How often have you heard, 'That guy still has a quick wit for someone in his 80's?' The fact is, he may have a quicker wit than many in their 30's, but no one would tell a 30 year—old that he or she is witty for their age. Nor would they remark that they're in good shape for their 30's.

We've heard references to 'the declining years' when the topic is people over 65. Yet, I've known people 20 or 30 years younger who were in decline because of poor health habits or reckless lifestyles. Many of them never reached 65; their 'decline' ended before 40. Others could be considered 'old before their time,' based on a poor attitude and a lack of enthusiasm for living.

Contrariwise, I've known people in their 90's who have a lust for life and a sense of humor that would make most '30 somethings' envious. In addition, some people are genetically superior to others; giving them several decades more ebullience than their contemporaries. However, that doesn't stop society from tucking them away neatly into that calcified concept of chronological correctness. Sadly, due to this tidy system of human compartmentalization, people expect you to act in a certain way, at a certain age. That is, unless you're wealthy and/or famous.

My mother used to say if you're poor and behave oddly, they refer to you as crazy, but if you're rich and act the same way, they say you're eccentric. That's discrimination based on one's financial situation. However, the same could be said about one's numerical situation. If a 'young' man behaves erratically it's viewed as youthful indiscretion; the very same antics by his grandfather would make him a candidate for a 'nursing home,' and a drawer full of medication.

People expect you to act in accordance with the classification to which you have been assigned. The same is expected of minority groups. Each race and nationality has been given character traits that would make the bigot very uneasy if those traits were not adhered to. Italians are frequently cast as gangsters in the reel world; their academic and corporate successes in the real world notwithstanding.

Recently, a very sharp and politically savvy octogenarian acquaintance of mine said, 'Bob, modern medicine has found a way to keep us alive and healthy for many years past the traditional retirement age, but, now they don't know what to do with us.' Well, they had better find out soon because those so called 'baby boomers' and their parents are about to become the dominant voting bloc in the country. Furthermore, that age group is much more likely to vote than their much younger counterparts.

A few weeks ago, in a communication from a political action committee, the subject of senior housing was addressed. The first sentence began with, 'a suitable place must be found.' Such phraseology is more than condescending, it relegates age group accommodations to the level of an animal shelter or a maximum security prison; society must keep them at a 'suitable' distance. Moreover, it sends a clear message that the older one gets, the less worth is attributed to them.

That will soon change when a massive voting bloc elects people who respect their elders. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com