Someone sent me the link to a post entitled 35 Common Senior Habits That Leave Young People Puzzled on the online magazine,– no author or date. I clicked on it. Within seconds, even before the end of the first sentence, I got annoyed and got more annoyed the more I read. Ugh! Here we go again with those nasty, superficial images and words about aging people!  In the first paragraph it says, “As we grow older, our habits evolve, sometimes mystifying younger generations…” 

The essay went on to list thirty-five “…daily activities that serve as a badge of honor among the elderly…” Ugh – Again! The only time I could find the word we, was in that very first paragraph. All of the “habits” were explained using “they,” “them,” or “older people.” So, one big problem with this commentary was the “we” vs “they” approach. I think of myself (an aging person) as “us/me.” I grudgingly give a smidgin of credit to the author for wanting to explain something about us/me, but I am left with the nagging questions – what did they hope to clarify and why? 

Unfortunately, to make their dubious points, the writer relied on cliched statements and images to convey their sketchy ideas. There are literally thousands of photos of seniors – smiling, grey haired, happy-looking – on the internet, but for the first of the thirty-five habits called “Voicemail Virtuosos,” the author chose a picture of a slightly disheveled, sour-faced, yelling, wrinkled woman as a way to illustrate, “…the older generation prefers the personal touch of a voicemail.” 

I object strongly to the writer’s suggestion that all mature people are the same. “They” all like to go out to dinner early, wear jackets, take afternoon naps, and check the weather reports every day all day. Actually, we are not all the same and don’t all like the same things. Each of us has our own origin and growing up stories. We have individual experiences and memories from multiple eras and locations. Each has had joys and sorrows through a life-time of living. Yes, as we age, we may face health, financial, and relationship issues. These may be common factors, but the details and how we deal with them vary tremendously. 

We are not all cut from one cloth and our lives are comprised of far more than thirty-five habits. Categorizing people by “habits” does a disservice to who we truly are. The reality of our existences makes it impossible and certainly unnecessary to pigeonhole us. We are diverse and interesting, and we don’t have to justify ourselves to anyone.

Where I live, there are many older people and we represent multiple cultures, varied life journeys, and disparate work histories. We were born in the U.S. or somewhere else. We are current and former teachers, nurses, security guards, lawyers, shop owners, business managers, doctors, elected officials, professors, financial advisors, and artists. We are single, married, divorced, widowed. Some of us work at and some are retired from regular jobs. We may or may not have kids or grandkids. We do volunteer work at libraries, belong to book clubs, serve at election-day voting places, and play bridge. We are like the rest of the general population – just older with more knowledge and wisdom, which is clearly lacking in this piece of writing.  

Most egregious, Common Senior Habits represents the epitome of ageism. It perpetuates unfounded, false perceptions, and it bolsters stereotypes. Its bogus message makes me cringe. But it does remind me that ageist views are rife and firmly entrenched. What to do? I must keep writing and talking about it, still not knowing if that will contribute to a deeper, more profound appreciation of the rich complexity of ‘us.’