Exhibit A: This is the cover of last year’s Time Magazine, double issue on longevity and Alzheimer’s. Take a look at that CHIN! Is that the chin of a woman who needs an Alzheimer’s pill? If not, why not? Is being an old person with an old person’s chin so unacceptable that Time Magazine cannot show it on the cover of its longevity issue? Really?!
Exhibit B: The other day at the bank – I was there because they can’t seem to text a code to my cell phone so I can get into my accounts online. The branch manager is maybe 35, a sweet man with kind cow eyes, patient, like you’d be with a five year old who didn’t know English very well. In the course of five minutes he suggests that perhaps I don’t know my own cellphone number, but when he checks his records, it’s correct. Then he notices I’ve spelled my first name wrong, Randee with two ee’s, “Shouldn’t it be Randy, with a y?” I show him my drivers license and library card. Again, he consults the bank’s own records and, sure enough, I know how to spell my name.
This crap is like Chinese Water Torture – drip, drip, drip. Honestly, I wonder how much of the way old people lose cognitive function doesn’t have to do with this constant barrage of people expecting us to have no more cognitive function than an eggplant. Like the way the doctors would never speak to my Mother when I went with her, the way they ignored her, speaking instead to me. (Exhibit C) And both of us are telling them to speak to her directly since she’s present and in full control of her faculties. But, drip, drip, drip.
This is another example of how we have to guard against internalizing the assumptions that other people have about us as old people. I’ve written about us ’til I’m blue in the face and I’ve just discovered another person, Ashton Applewhite, who’s writing about it brilliantly. Her book is called, This Chair Rocks, and the thing I love about it is that she puts real facts up against ageist assumptions. For instance: How many people over the age of 65 would you say are in nursing homes? My honest first guess was 25%, but turns out it’s only 4%. How about 85 years old? I assumed at least 75% but it’s actually 10%. What does it cost me to believe that 1 in 4 people my age are so disabled they have to live in an institution?
For one thing, it makes it harder to speak up for myself.
Exhibit D – After the Chihuahua bit my finger (see, Resuscitate Me), Medicare paid my medical and hospital expenses except for the tetanus shot I got at the ER. Medicare said it was because the ER didn’t use the right code. Just ask them to re-bill it, they said. But the billing guy at the ER refused and flipped to badgering mode so quickly it took my breath away. He said I must have used up my allotment of tetanus shots. When was my last tetanus, he demanded. I told him I had gotten it from his ER, perhaps they could look it up. “You can’t remember when you got your last tents shot!?” he roared; he kept bringing this up throughout our conversation. And as he did, I started cringing and questioning myself. Was my memory failing so badly that I could not even remember when my last tetanus shot was!? Oh God, I had not realized I had slipped so far!
It was not until I got off the phone that I could think clearly enough to get some perspective. When that happened, I started wondering – How many people can remember when their last tetanus shot was? Not just old people – people in their 20’s !? I’d like to see some statistics on that!
I called my doctor and left a message that said, “I feel that your billing person might have been discriminatory to me because of my age, and I blog.” I think he did not expect a 70 year old woman to even know what a blog was, much less have one. It must have been an assumption-busting revelation because he called back quickly. After speaking to him, I had to go out, but when I returned there was a message from the bullying billing guy saying he had called medicare.
So here we are in the 21st Century – We, the people, who stopped a war, changed the rules, busted unfair barriers, and invented Rock & Roll. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that there are 76.4 million of us. And we can blog! Even if you don’t have your own blog, you’ve got this one. I’ll be glad to share your story. Tell me how you have felt the lash of age discrimination? It’s time to turn that whip into the limp noodle it truly is!
Originally posted 2017-04-22 18:09:53.