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Speaking out: Speaking back to Ageism

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Editorial on ageism.

by, Annette Sercerchi

I have lived through two other “isms” – Racism and Feminism but will keep those for another day.

The term “ageism” was coined in 1969 by Robert N. Butler, M.D., then a 42-year-old psychiatrist. Butler was not the first to identify a seemingly universal, widespread contempt for old people . Personally I think “Contempt” is too strong a word. But certainly as one grows older, they become less visible.

I worked until I was 72 and while working into my seventies, I didn’t notice any particular age related nuances except perhaps “you’re still working”. I think if you like your job and it is satisfying and not stressful, you should stay as long as you want. Partime is good, if you can arrange it.

Recently, my partner surprised me when he said , “it’s probably harder for women to grow old”. Professional men can work as long as they want but our warranty wears out. No one wants the image of an older woman in their front office. Also perhaps it has been noticed that older men date much younger women, rarely in the reserve. Perhaps it has something to do with money!

Since retiring, I have had to deal more with myself and where I go in life from here. Before, there was a forward motion and a purpose. Certainly in your 70’s your children are grown and grandkids (if lucky enough to have them) are becoming independent. Now I often find a full day with little to do except house work, cook meals and walk the dogs. Volunteering is excellent as long as you can find something that interests you. But even “Old Gals” want to have fun!

Just recently I started a ‘News and Views ‘ session with some folks at a Seniors Residence. Mostly we share stories but they don’t see my age. When I told them I was writing on Ageism, one said “you have hardly started that”. They all miss HOME but realize that their family worried about them because they were alone. Some need more care than their families can provide.

Since my new friends live in a protected environment, they don’t often notice or have to endure some of the injustices of seniors who live on their own with a very limited income. It is much easier to face ageing when you don’t have to worry about money.

Recently I asked if there was any ‘elder’ treatment in particular that they noticed when out in the public. One said, the people who honk at you because you are not going fast enough. Another said, “ I feel rushed particularly at checkouts because I like to put my money in my wallet and then into my purse”. That irks the people who are in line behind her. Another resident told me she carries her cane for protection when walking on the trail around her residence.

Personally, I live in the downtown area and would be afraid to walk far from my house after dark. I carefully watch who’s approaching and often cross the street to avoid a confrontation.

Perhaps you have noticed how few people even share, let alone, step aside when walking on sidewalks. Maybe this happens to everyone, many times I don’t think I’m even noticed. My “username” on Instagram is “Invisible Woman”.

I often hear or read about “old people” who should not be driving and I wonder how many times I have been described as that. I admit I am not as confident driving now and avoid late night or highway driving. Am I correct that most people assume accidents are caused primarily by young kids or old people.

There’s also the lament “No one wants to listen to us any more”. Maybe it’s because we keep telling the same old stories which have been heard so many times.

There’s also the “can’t find” – as in I can’t find my glasses, my keys, my IPhone, this is a very personal complaint!

We live in a fast age, TV is not fast enough for kids, they prefer video games that they can control. I sometimes think I’m the only person who watches commercials, everyone else uses the fast forward option.

I laughingly told my grandson that someday I might need a knee replacement but when he gets my age, it will be his “thumbs” because of all the keyboard action!

But I can also tell you there are lots of stories and lots of laughs. We all agree you need a good sense of humour when you get older. The old saying “growing old is not for wimps!”is very true and being able to laugh about with friends helps the journey.

As the years go by, and I have more experience in this new role, I will write more. However, having lost two dear friends before they were even 65, makes me realize that it is privilege to grow old.


As we grow older, we must discipline ourselves to continue expanding, broadening, learning, keeping out minds active and open.     




Growing older is not upsetting; being perceived as old is.  


Annette Sercerchi is a feminist, the mother of two grown women, a grandmother to four beautiful children, a dedicated knitter, a volunteer, and had a career as a book-keeper and office manager for over 40 years, among other things!


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