The silver veil: becoming invisible as we age

The silver veil is the perfect term for what I feel like is worn on my face all the time when I’m in public. It’s a metaphoric shrouding that I believe makes me invisible to others. I wanted to share my story today because I feel that there are still people out there who ignore those of us who have grey hair and look “old”. There are a number of instances I can think of where I was ignored by strangers and can think of no other reason why it occurred other than they probably just thought I was a silly old woman.

Three years ago I was grocery shopping by myself at the local shopping centre. I had arrived alone, as I had done every week, and I was pushing a trolley. I parked my trolley next to me as I reached up to get a packet from a high shelf. As I reached up, I slipped and hit my nose and mouth on the shelves, falling down to the floor. I lay there, shocked, and no one was in the aisle when it happened. There was blood on my face and I tried to pick myself off the floor but couldn’t. I was only 62 at the time and was by no means frail, but I have diabetes and my ankles swell. Looking back, I probably could have gotten up but I think I was just in shock. A man walked past and didn’t pay any attention to me – I couldn’t believe it…

After about 5 minutes (it felt like forever), a woman came and asked me if I was okay and noticed I was bleeding. She was kind but as soon as the manager came, she “handed me over” and walked away. I could understand if she needed to get going, was late, or had a child, but she walked all of 2 metres before looking at some magazines. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough but the manager told me I needed to wait for an ambulance as the cut to my nose was quite deep. I felt like a fool – I was on display for everyone, parked on a plastic chair in front of the service desk. The ambulance officers soon came and cleaned me up but not without the caring (sarcasm) glances from onlookers. Not one of them could be bothered to ask me if I was okay, instead gawping and trying to get a good look at my face. Lucky the ambulance officers were wonderful and took me through the shop to the back dock so I could go to my car in peace. I recovered fine in the following weeks (not without a small scar), but it left even bigger scars on my confidence. I didn’t feel like I could face the world again and it wasn’t because I tripped in a supermarket aisle, but because for the first time, I’d realised just how “old” I was. And 62 isn’t even old, I hear you say, but that day really made me wonder what would have happened if I was a young girl instead of the silver-haired 62-year-old I was? I bet you anything that a girl or even a 40-something would have been attended to straight away.

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A few weeks ago, my silver veil was in full force: a man at a shopping centre ran straight into me. I know that us over 60s might think we seem invisible, I just didn’t realise how literal that statement was. He wasn’t even looking at his phone – he just barged straight into me. I’m not the tiniest of ladies but I’m not so big that I just fit in with the furniture! He apologised but I got the feeling he blamed me for being in his way instead of the other way around. Add this story to one from just this last week when I was waiting to be served at my local cafe and a woman walked straight in front of me to order. No ‘excuse me’, no nothing! She didn’t even see me and when I said, “Excuse me, I was waiting here”, she looked at me like I had shot her! I have plenty of other examples and I’m sure you all do as well.

When will we be seen as more than just an “old man” or “old woman”? Will we ever know what it’s like to be respected by the younger generations or do we have to just take it on the chin (like the shelf I hit)?

I call them out on their crap but I don’t think everyone else feels comfortable doing that…we just want to be treated equally and no different to anyone else…because we aren’t! Being 65 etc. doesn’t mean you’re dead! Why? Because I’d sure as hell see a skeleton if they walked towards me!

What do you think? Do you think you have a ‘silver veil’ on when you are out and about? When have you felt invisible and ignored by strangers? Tell us your stories below.