How should we handle being treated as “old”? 773



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Last week my grandson visited my husband and I at our retirement village. He is 19, studying to become a physical education teacher at university and has a part time job at a popular sporting shoe store. He visits every Thursday afternoon and joins in for beers and a game of pool with his granddad and some of the other men from the village. Last week he had an interesting story and it made me realise that it is probably one that everyone on Starts at 60 might like to hear.

Firstly, I detest being old. I will admit, I am over the age that one is generally deemed old however by lifestyle and health standards, I am most definitely not old. I don’t like it when people treat me like a little old lady and I really don’t stand for shop attendants calling me “love” or “dear” because I feel like although it is a nice gesture, it comes from a misconception that I am old.

But, my grandson’s story made me change that. Firstly, just like you I adore my grandchildren, but when I say that Chris is one of the nicest people I’ve ever come across, I am being very un-biased. He interacts with other men so maturely, he volunteers teaching disables children to swim and he is by far the most considerate and calm person in a family of loud-mouthed crazy people.

And, while he was working at the sports store last week he offered to carry a one woman’s shopping out to the car because he thought she looked like she had her hands full – that is just the kind of young man he is. He wouldn’t have thought twice about offering. However, she turned around and very publicly accused him of being rude and for treating her as “incapable”.

Now, when he told me this he was confused. And I must admit, so was I. Had I misinterpreted simple acts of politeness and kindness for being rude and ageist? Am I in fact the one with the big problem, and the shop assistants or waiters are simply acting out of kindness?

So what do we do when someone treats us as old?

Someone asked this on Yahoo answers and some of the responses were very interesting…

Peggy replied, “I think that we all have our own gauge of what is old. I don’t mind being referred to as “old” or “older” but it is when people call us all names like wrinklies that I get offended. Most of the time I smile politely and keep on moving because hey – they’re going to be old too one day!”

Mariana said, “The only time I get offended is when younger people generalise about our behaviour. Suggesting that we’re impatient, irritable or slow is wrong and if they do say something like that then I’m always prepared to give them a stern word.”

Peter said, “It doesn’t matter what words people use, it’s the tone of voice. If there is an inferred meaning then I will get angry very easily.” 

So does it come down to personal opinion? Is there a right or wrong time to be offended or a right or wrong way to handle the situation? When you’re spoken to as old, what do you do? Do you think we’re all too quick to react when perhaps there was no ill intention there?

I know my grandson’s story has changed my view of things and I’m going to try and stop being so sensitive to people’s language. So tell me, has it changed yours?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Yes I have had people ask to carry bags or push trolleys for me but I must say I do always decline politely. I have always thought they were being kind but now I think maybe it is because they think I’m old ha ha. I am 65 and come from a long line of strong women. My mum is 94 and a few years ago she told me she would love to work with “old” people. What do you say to that? I told her, “Mum, if you can find any people older than you, go right ahead”.

    2 REPLY
    • Yep, got an 88 year old mother who is the same… still runs a group at her church for young children twice a week!!!

  2. I do not get offended I am always pleased that people offer help and it is not always age related over my life I have always been grateful to people who helped get prams off trains and buses when I was younger. I help people when I can and always say thank you when offered help. People complain the world is full of nasty people it is not and if you do not want help you should always smile and thank the person who offers.

  3. I also have trouble with the age thing and I get really miffed by others having a misconception on just because you have a number attached to you that it means your old or are dim witted. But really age doesn’t mean a damn thing I was told by a Solicitor at the age of 34years that I was only good at that age for domestic work when I asked about getting back to work in the office fields. Still haven’t but that’s ok brought up 2 fantastic children instead of going back to work.

  4. Wow! I am amazed that people judge so harshly! If someone calls me love or dear then I smile and thank them for their friendly service. If it’s rude and condescending then I just walk away with my purchases and thank you!
    Why is there always an ulterior motive? Respect is a lovely thing and your grandson seems to be a very respectful young man. Perhaps the lady he offered to help was having a bad day, maybe she was just in pain of some sort! Who knows. Tell your grandson he is wonderful and not to change his ways because Karma has a way of returning what you give tenfold!
    Thank you for sharing your story and I say, lighten up everyone! A smile costs nothing!

    2 REPLY
    • never be offended by some one saying dear ,cause they could say a whole lot worse, and you are the best judge of being old or feeling old, , but hey keep smiling cause not every one gets OLD .

  5. Along the way through life I’ve helped young with prams and been helped also when young, I’ve had many men open doors and I’ve opened doors, I’ve always said thanks to who ever has been polite to me. My motto is pass to gesture on. We humans need to be polite and care for each other. What’s age anyway, if we are lucky we might get there, I’m 63

  6. Who cares if someone thinks we are old. When we were younger we would’ve felt the same way.
    I can remember when I was young thinking that 50 was really old. Now I’m 62 I think 50 is young. As far as other people thinking I’m old, thats because in their eyes I am, so what.

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