Mom and Me: Thoughts on Marginalization and Aging

Thoughts From Mom to Me

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

As we age, we are treated differently, make no mistake about it, but until I felt it myself, it never rang true. In my professional life, from time to time I observed how people are marginalized – individuals with mental illness, immigrants, international students, people of color.

Now, after years in college and ministerial circles, I’ve aged, and I sometimes feel marginalized because of my age. Someone might speak to me in a falsetto voice, pay no attention to my opinions, or worse still, not offer me a leadership role of some type. Sometimes I feel that young adults are patronizing. As I became more aware of ageism, at first I was perplexed, then angry, and finally curious. Is this a rite of passage for each generation?

Today when you told Dad and me of a conversation with your cousin, the gist of which is that gray hair raises barriers with younger colleagues, and that the barriers sometimes lead to perceptions of less competence or inventiveness, I wondered does this cycle have to exist? How can we understand these new roles? Are we taking enough initiative? Are we now only acceptable as participants with less primary roles? Do young adults ever really know who “old people” are?

Yet, advantages and senior privileges accrue as I age – watching you and your family grow, becoming wiser, enjoying the flexibility to pursue interests, and so much more. And, of course, I have the knowledge and the perspective that aging is a lifetime process.

Mom, My Daughter, and Me-1994

Thoughts From Me to Mom

Interesting. Perhaps you are right, that this is all about rites of passage for each generation. Sadly, I have memories as a young professional of feeling irritated with older professional who, from my perspective, seemed to know so much and acted like their experience was more important than my viewpoint. And now, sadly, people do it to me.

I’ve noticed that people seem to perceive me differently than in the past. Friends and colleagues my age comment about this all of the time. Most are my age – in their 50’s — and like me, say that the change in the way they are perceived seemed to happen over-night. One of my friends tells a story about how she suddenly noticed in meetings that people rolled their eyes when she was speaking – yet she knew she did not dominate, ask silly questions, or make extraneous comments. Our society seems to self-segregate by age, interests, political views, and more, so we may know a lot less about each other compared to when you and Dad were growing up.

Yes, there are benefits to growing older. I perceive myself differently, have much less to prove, and feel less stressed by little things. All of these develop only after long experience with life. I also have one other bonus, as I am aging — I watch you and Dad live fully and richly as you age gracefully.

3 thoughts on “Mom and Me: Thoughts on Marginalization and Aging

  1. I’ve always thought of older people as wise and experienced. They have a lot to teach us. And I’ve always advised people in my articles to have an old friend. You will learn too much from them.
    Thanks for this great post.


  2. I am a social work student, embarking on this new adventure at age 56. My parents are in their late 70’s and extremely active. At middle age, I still value their perspectives, as if I was a girl. They have had life experiences that are rich and filled with lessons that still translate to my generation and my daughters’ generation. Thank you for a wonderful blog. I am so glad to have found you!


  3. I am 62, a retired nurse, Geriatric Care manager. My very elderly parents were my last “clients” until their deaths 4 years ago. I have a 70 year old husband, a 32 year old son, a 38 year old step-son (wife, 3 kids) and a 42 year old step-daughter (husband, 3 kids). Overnight, I have apparently become “old.” Our kids are too busy for us, so we pay their way to Fl to visit. When they’re here, they ignore us as if we were invisible, only showing up for free meals. No thank-you’s, no, “what can I do to help?”, no Happy Anniversary, even though they knew it was, only our 2nd, they were all at our wedding 2 years ago. I saw this type of marginalization with my clients over my 40 year career and also with my own parents. I never saw it coming to me. I honestly don’t know how to cope, to react. I am angry and I am sad. I am truly at a loss.


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