Let’s go back to the July 2 submission in which we disclosed that Henri believes that aging causes the elderly to feel ostracized due to three factors, “segregation, desolation and loss of self”. We discussed segregation on July 2 and today we will deal with desolation. Henri defines desolation as, “the crippling experience of the shrinking circle of friends with the devastating awareness that the few years left to live will not allow you to widen the circle again.” What do you think about this premise? Are old friends the best friends or is it possible to establish a new circle? Two perspectives: do you have friends 20, 30 or 40 years older than you? and, if you are over 70, do you find that ‘youngsters’ are reaching out to you? Please respond!
The world lost a great champion against ageism with the death of Dr. Robert Butler earlier this month. A psychiatrist who realized as a child that death was inevitable, he totally reinvented the treatment of the elderly through research and public policy. It was Dr. Butler who coined the term “ageism” to describe discrimination against the elderly. He was the founding director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health. Dr. Butler called aging, “the neglected stepchild of the human life cycle”. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for his book, “Why Survive? Being Old in America”, in which he revolutionized the long held myths on aging and exposed the issue of prejudice against the elderly. Raised by his grandparents, he came to revere them and this shaped his future career. The world is fortunate that this kind man focused his energy and talents on this last frontier. He will be missed but you have an opportunity to carry on his legacy by contributing to the discussion he started on ageism decades ago. Please comment.
Yesterday, July 8th, on one of Chicago’s premier TV stations, NBC, three of Channel 5’s morning anchors engaged in an on-air verbal volley on the how ugly a shirtless picture of the octogenarian, Betty White would be. She was actually referred to as eliciting a vision of the “California Raisin”. It isn’t about Betty, she is a celebrity and paid handsomely for whatever is lobbed at her. What surprised me and I guess disappointed me, was the insensitivity of the anchors to the fact that many of their elderly viewers might be offended and rightly so. They were sharing an inside joke and invited everyone in, not taking into account that some of their greatest supporters are experiencing the aging process. I don’t know if they all could have participated if the joke was about Latinos or Blacks but in a sense, it was about everyone of every race and creed and gender who has reached a “certain age”. Interestingly, the only on-air personality that tried to steer the conversation was the young traffic reporter. Kudos to him and his parents who obviously taught him that humans deserve respect at every age. I would love to use this as an opportunity to have the conversation. I challenge the station to explore the question. Is ageism the last frontier of prejudice in this country? What do you think?
Henri contents that the feelings of segregation,desolation and loss of self are legitimate feelings in the aging process and need to be addressed. He states that Claire Townend describes old age as, “the last segregation”. He contends that this is because civilization considers “doing” and “having” more important than “being”. “Our desire to acquire a job, to make a good career, to have a house, car, money,etc, has become so central to our motivation to live that he or she who no longer is able to relate to the world in those ‘desirable’ terms has become a stranger”. How do you feel about this premise? Is aging the last frontier of prejudice? It is universal to all human life. It transcends race, creed, gender. What do you personally think? We want to know.
This space is dedicated to sharing the Good News with one another as we journey Home.