Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You're Just My (Stereo)Type

"Will you still need me,
Will you still feed me
When I'm 64?"

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

For quite awhile I have subscribed to - mostly because I really have no clue how most stuff works. But yesterday they kind of wandered off the page with an essay called "5 Stereotypes about Aging (That Just Aren't True)". You can read the article yourself, but as an official older person I think I am in a pretty good position to comment on some of the insights written by author, Tom Scheve.

The first stereotype he refutes is All Old People Are the Same. I am a bit surprised that this is a stereotype since I don't really know anyone who has voiced that sort of opinion. But if one of my 7 or 8 readers does believe this, listen up. Tom is right - all old people are not the same. Some of us have skills - like, say, fixing household appliances - and some of us do not. Some of us are creative - like, say, inventing toast that is soft on one side - and others stubbornly want it dark all around. Some of us just cannot drop certain topics while others wish we would. Some of us get cranky - oh never mind, we all pretty much do that.

The second stereotype he rebuffs is that Only the Young Believe Stereotypes About Old People. Apparently, lots of old people have also fallen for the bad image thing and started to believe the myths, making them more or less true. The worst offenders apparently are the elderly who watch the most television. They view their peer group worse than those who don't watch much TV. I can only imagine how miserable their outlook would be if they were to broadcast Masterchef Australia around the world. Then the elderly would think badly of old people AND Australians.

The third stereotype is that Less-Industrialized Societies Treat the Elderly Better. Apparently the myth of the venerable old people being held in high esteem by their nomadic tribes doesn't cut it when they become too much of a nuisance and absent-mindedly wander off into the tundra. Of course, it's also obvious to me that less-industrialized societies don't have as many resources to help with the care of the elderly. I suspect that there may be a direct link between the price of pet food and how well old people are treated.

The next myth is fun - The Aging Should Leave the Planning to Others. Scheve writes, "In the minds of many people, as soon as someone turns 60 or so, he or she can't be trusted with making even basic decisions."

Look, there are a couple of ways of skinning this cat. The first is obvious. Most of the people our kids' ages have assumed we have been making bad decisions for the last 30 years. We didn't need to turn 60 for them to come to that conclusion.

But you probably can't hear me making this argument very well because of all the loud laughter as my friends over 60 contemplate letting their kids make their decisions for them. You know, if you don't see how funny that is, then there's nothing I can write to make it clear. But let's just say that - even before this one was discussed - this myth was busted.

There's a last stereotype, but it's about elderly suicide and even I cannot think of a way to write a punchline with that topic. But I do see how writing about having our kids start to make our decisions for us could naturally lead to thoughts of putting your head in the oven.

Anyhow, it's an interesting little article. Check it out if you have time.

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