In his recent post over at the Changing Aging blog, Kavan Peterson describes a short video, Forwarders. Intended as a parody of people who continuously forward e-mail, the video reinforces stereotypes about elders and aging. It’s sad that this short film focuses solely on one older adult, especially since so many people of all ages are extreme (and irritating) forwarders.
While it’s intended to be funny, the video’s other message is that old people with wrinkles are silly and inept — at least that’s my interpretation. I’ll bet that the video producer — I am guessing an adolescent or young adult — probably cherishes a fair number of lifelong relationships with elders. This parody promotes a stereotype that could have been alleviated simply by adding in a few younger characters who also need reforming. (I posit a guess about the creator/producer’s age after looking over other published web content.)
The video and others like it also raise a question. How do we help individuals who are Internet content “whizzes” to understand that everything uploaded is subject to interpretation?
As a teacher who concentrates on educational technology, I frequently hear the refrain, “But I did not mean to hurt that person,” usually after a student has created and uploaded what he or she considered to be amusing content. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes various readers or viewers interpret the message differently. What my students slowly learn is that digital content may be funny to one person, not funny to another, and for some individuals downright insulting.
In today’s connected society digital natives — born into a world of computers, cell phones, and various other gadgets — find it easy to create content, but sometimes they forget that what they do and say (and upload) circulates far and wide. Different people will watch and may reach different conclusions about the work. One person’s joke can unintentionally malign others. Humor that is appropriate for a person at one age is not so funny when it’s uploaded into the world at large for everyone to see. Digital natives need to learn and respect the ways that different people view the world through slightly different lenses. Most professional writers of parody think long and hard about every detail of a project, interchanging those lenses as they create.
Quartet is the perfect movie to see on Valentine’s Day. When I visit my parents this weekend, I will suggest that we all go and watch, and I can’t wait to see it for a second time.
The movie is about aging musicians, and the main characters are played by highly regarded and accomplished actors in their senior years. The story, about long retired musicians, is wonderfully touching, addressing in an artistic way all sorts of chronic problems and aging issues, including losing the ability to perform to the level they were used to as professional musicians. All of the extras are retired musicians — one man in his nineties — all of whom still love and enjoy their art. Dustin Hoffman, the director is 75. The credits recognize the more prominently featured elder musicians, explaining where and what they did professionally.
I cannot say enough about how good this movie is to watch, and the way it celebrates the elder years. It tackles the frustrating problems of ageism head on. Read this Quartet review in the Boston Globe.
If you find yourself forgetting things (and taking more time to remember them than you want), read Dr. Bill Thomas’ post, Tip of the Tongue, over at his Changing Aging blog. He writes about the brain and presents a broad range of research findings that address memory, forgetting, remembering, age, and ageism. As we grow older and despite forgetting, Dr. Bill emphasizes, most of the information is still in our brain as we move toward elderhood, though we are a bit less efficient at retrieving it quickly.
Best Quote from this Changing Aging Blog Post
It turns out that younger brains are good at quickly recalling bits of information (like a name or where you put your car keys) because they have a relatively straightforward filing system. Older people, by dint of long experience, “store” memories within a more diffuse network of brain systems.
At least once a day I have a tip-of-the-tongue experience, and almost always, the thought that I was trying so hard to remember pops into my head sometime later in the day. My parents, age 89 and 85, have the same experience. I do not worry about it, and I encourage them not to worry too much about it, because we almost always remember the information in a relatively short time (or we know where to go to find it).
I stopped worrying about forgetting after I attended a parents’ weekend lecture some years ago at Brown University — in a large lecture hall, standing room only. The lecturer, a professor and brain researcher whose class my daughter was taking (and whose name I cannot remember just now), shared some interesting and reassuring facts using a metaphor of old-fashioned library card catalog.
Important Lecture Points With Some of My Editorial Notes Read more »
Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
- Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.
- Of a very high standard; excellent.
A month after my mother’s surgery at the University of Virginia Health System, we returned for a follow-up appointment with her surgeon. My mom came through with flying colors, but the real star is Dr. Duska. Moreover, the people who work with this gifted and graceful physician, her residents and fellows, are also amazing. All of them communicated in a relaxed way, took medical histories with warmth and interest, and even spent time learning more about my mom than the mere facts about her medical condition.
But there’s more. Adult children know what it can be like to go to an unfamiliar specialist with an elder parent and watch the parent be treated as a child, or at least not as a full-fledged adult. Ageism is alive and well in many places.
Not once in our experiences did Dr. Duska or any her colleagues do anything that made my mother feel like an old or irrelevant person. Of course Charlottesville is in central Virginia, and even though UVA is a major public research university (Did I mention that we were there at the beginning of the leadership debacle?) at least a few people around the Medical Center called my mom “hon” or “dearie.” In the Commonwealth of Virginia one simply tries hard to get used to that.
But for Dr. Duska and her colleagues respect is an art form, just like their surgical skills.
Huge congratulations to my friend Carol over at Inside Aging Parent Care!
Today the Denver Post published her commentary — sharing some of her thoughts and ideas about ageism. Carol explains that even those of us who are currently growing older and into retirement years need to adjust our understanding about what it means to reach our later years. Even we have a tendency to make inaccurate assumptions about the late-in-life years.
So head on over to the blog or directly to the piece, Perceptions of the Elderly are Clouded by Ageism.
Best Quote Read more »
The other night we went to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and boy, did we enjoy ourselves.
A group of British retirees, most seeking lower costs and a bit of adventure, ends up as the guests in a seedy, formerly grand hotel in Jaipur, India. In fact, the hotel is terrible. It’s not what they expect, but the endearing, entrepreneurial proprietor draws them in. As the movie zooms in on the characters’ personal stories we found ourselves gazing through familiar late-in-life prisms. Did I mention some of the fairly obnoxious adult children?
Marigold introduces a woman who was let go after training her own replacement, the parents who invested in their daughter’s start-up (yes, boomers everywhere are giving lots of money to their kids), and the woman who trusted her beloved husband who then left her in debt. We become acquainted with a retired attorney, drawn back to the place of a great love affair, and several others who just want to be less lonely. Because these are British characters, the frustrations tend to be understated — but frustrations, none the less. The Indian characters are just as engaging, fully developed, and far more exuberant.
I am tiring of “the boomers are coming” dire warnings that seem to be everywhere. Boomer bashing is nothing new — it’s been going on since it became clear that the demographic cohort would be a large one.
Yes there are problems with so many people growing old in one generation, but it also means there are lots of people who have time and energy to give back. In my life and in the lives of the boomers I know well, we have time after time given more than we’ve received. I expect this giving to continue.
Whether we were fighting for civil rights, starting careers later than usual because we worked on projects that supported other types of change, or continuing throughout our lives to contribute major amounts of community service, giving back has always been a theme in our lives.
What a delight to read Dorothy Sander’s April 11, 2012 post in the Huffington Post describing a “new way of aging” that involves deepening a vision about the many things that are left to be done even as we grow older. Sander, the founder of Aging Abundantly, expresses ideas that many boomers share.
Two Important Quotes Read more »