No one told us Baby Boomers that we would get old and that we would face "the modern world's careless contempt for the old." That phrase is taken from THE ECONOMIST's otherwise positive article on aging. Actually, its December 18, 2010 cover story is focused on the renaissance in our adult lives which aging triggers.
But here it is: "Careless contempt." We experience it when we walk cold into a situation, such as applying for a job, an assignment, or an order from a customer. We see it in their eyes and the slight drop of the jaw. Those tells scream: She's old. Of course, we are told we look younger than our age and we feel younger. But the reality is that we're not young.
So, what do we do about the "careless contempt for the old?" Learn from every oppressed group around, ranging from the Italians back when I was growing up in Irish and white-bread Jersey City to the Indians under British rule. The lesson there is not internalize it. People have every right to their perceptions. And we have every right to resist thinking about ourselves the way they think about us.
The first walk-through on that experience was when I was employed in a security guard survival job at Home Depot in inner city Bridgeport, Connecticut. I was 58 and barely on my feet from a breakdown [Download Geezerguts. A co-worker gleefully reported to me that a cashier at the store had wondered "What's someone that old working as a security guard."
The walk-through entailed embracing that I was old. But there was more. Old hadn't prevented me for seeking out a job, nailing one down, and holding on to it for as long as I needed it.
Chronological age is a fact of nature. Our behavior is how we tame nature.