The silver veil: How we become invisible in our 60s 185



View Profile

Some of you reading this may have heard of the “silver veil”, and some may not have. But if you have ever felt invisible due to your age, then you have worn it.

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.

A year ago I was grocery shopping by myself at the local shopping centre. I put 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 head 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 was in pain. All I could do was prop myself up as I felt so disoriented. A man walked past and didn’t pay any attention to me – I couldn’t believe it!

Then a female shopper 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 two 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. My nose healed, but the incident 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.

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?

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!

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.

Starts at 60 Writers

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

  1. I had a similar thing happen to me earlier this year, it was my first outing to the supermarket after I had had major surgery and I was feeling very faint, fortunately a young girl staff member of the store came to my aid as she could see something was wrong, she organized for someone to get a chair for me and some water and offered to get an ambulance which I didn’t think was necessary. I never at any stage felt ignored.

    5 REPLY
    • I fell over outside the bank, I felt like a total fool, but some young man ran over and picked me up, and all these people came running over to help, so I can relate to you more than I can to the story 🙂

    • I have no idea if I’m invisible. I’m not a fan of the human race so I just do my own thing in town and get out as fast as I can.

    • I’m with you on that Sue I just hate shopping in general, in fact I only go to the shops when I need to go to the pharmacy and maybe pick up something I may have forgotten when I shop at Coles on-line.

    • Coles won’t deliver here, they say 60 ks is too far, lol. It takes me 6 hours to do the weekly shop, by the time I get to town and shop hop everywhere I need to go. I loathe it, but sadly I like to eat

    • That’s bad luck because it is a very good service, and as my GP expressed to me it saves you lugging all the heavy stuff, as they deliver it right on to you kitchen bench, EXCELLENT!

  2. I coulden’t read the story because its so small print on my phone.
    There are times when I have had the feeling of being invisable, but I wear hats a lot these days and people notice me more.
    Not that I am seeking attention, just that I could use a bit of a lift in the self esteem department at times.
    When ever I have looked ill when I am out, I have always have someone come to see if I was ok.
    I overdid the dancing at a festival here and must have looked like I was on my last legs because so many people stopped to see if I was ok.

    3 REPLY
    • I’ve complained to Starts at Sixty about the lightness and size of the font. Maybe more of us should do it. Try turning your phkne on its side and pressing the screen several times. It sometimes enlarges.. Frustrating.

    • Hi Philomena Lear Margaret Burns you can change the brightness and size of the font on your phone 🙂 it is in settings in your phone (for the brightness) and in your browser, simply go to settings and you may see ‘accessibility options’ and in here it has text size. hope that helps!

    • There is no change of font size on my phone. Brightened the screen and at this moment hurting my eyes.

  3. I have found people are kind when I am waiting to cross the road with my walking stick….they stop and let me go across…But when in a wheel chair .l was surprised at the fact that I was totally ignored even when smiling at people .They would not respond….l did feel like I was invisible. ..lthink most people are embarrassed and dont undestand….

    2 REPLY
    • That’s interesting because 15 years ago I was in a wheelchair for three months, and as I was studying photography at the time I did a series of photos “images from a wheelchair”. People treat you differently when you are in a wheelchair, whatever your age! And yes, you do feel invisible.

    • I’m now in a wheelchair for any outings and have noticed how people will not make eye contact with you. I do think their embarrassed.

  4. I’m a middle age female but because I’m doing a blokes job I don’t find this in fact just the opposite people say hello and want to talk because I think they are amazed that I’m slim fit doing a job most blokes wouldn’t do it

  5. I was in a supermarket a few years ago and noticed a woman sitting in a chair being looked after by one of the workers. She was feeling faint and I heard her say she needed to catch the bus home so I offered to drive her. Wasn’t much out of my way and she was very grateful.

    6 REPLY
  6. This is so common these days. Why everyday people seem to think it is alright to treat another human being like this is just beyond belief.

  7. I had a fall right outside Woolworths in Kellyville and broke my humorous the staff were wonderful, they got me into a wheelchair and took me inside the store, they rang my family and waited with me until the ambulance arrived, cannot speak more highly of the Woolworths staff.

  8. What a powerful image: the silver veil. I shall use it along with ‘having a Swiss cheese moment’.

    1 REPLY
    • So nice to hear that someone else refers to those “Swiss cheese” moments. That’s what I have been referring to my brain as.

  9. I agree. Two years ago I decided to let my hair go grey. The number of times I have been ignored or patronised is unbelievable. I feel exactly the same inside as I did 40 Years ago ! And my capacity for rational thought has increased greatly.

    1 REPLY
    • I too stopped dying my hair a few years ago and have the same experience as you. It does have its advantages though. When I was in my late 50s I was given seniors discounts at some stores- esp the hairdresser. I wasn’t old enough to qualify for a seniors card. Ha ha, thats what they get for looking at my grey hair and making assumptions !

  10. Im too busy to have time to notice whether people notice me or not! What a drama queen! Get a life! N lm 68. People often comment more on my lovely silver hair!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *