If you are a person of a certain age, particularly a woman, have you been subtly discriminated against because of your age? With job hunting? Retirement? Health? Or anywhere else?
The recent Superbowl feedback about Madonna’s performance hinted at her age. So what if she is 53? Or if she were 23 or 73? The point should be her talent, not her age.
Ditto for other female performers. I’m thinking of Helen Mirren in particular. And then there are the rest of us “of a certain age.” And for full discloser, I have been guilty – not just towards others but towards myself using the so-called health issues related to age as an excuse for not coming up to snuff doing different things.
As the late Ann Landers used to say, we need a “lashing” with a wet noodle.
Many of you know from reading some of my other blog posts that my parents didn’t exactly live through the middle or higher ends of so-called old age. Mom died at 63 and Dad died at 66. I don’t think they were discriminated in the health area because of their age, at least not intentionally. The closest I can come to that is with Dad’s last bout with cancer (untreatable), he was sent to what was then Riverdale in Toronto to finish off his time. In 1965 there were no hospices like today. When Mom had her brain aneurysm the doctors at the hospital did all they could (including operating) but it didn’t work. However, the fact that I wasn’t going to be notified of her actually dying until afterwards may be bad hospital practice rather than ageism. Maybe.
As I write in my memoir:
I get a phone call from one of Mom’s church friends, Mrs. Cook, the mother of Mary, the girl who used to walk The Bully and me to kindergarten.
“Sharon, I just called St. Mike’s and it doesn’t look so good. They’re not really saying anything, but when my husband was dying this is the way it was. They didn’t phone until after he died. You better get down to the hospital.”
I phone home and get Aunt Minnie who is just heading out the door. We agree to meet in mother’s room at the hospital. Then I receive permission to leave from the Acting Superintendent who says to get one of the staff to drive me. I look around for a cop – preferably a hunk in uniform who can just shove aside the security guard at the hospital. It’s before visiting hours start at 11 a.m. and I don’t have enough nerve or body to muscle my way in.
The only cop is a 19-year old cadet. But Roger is tall and in uniform, and he drives me. When we arrive, I ask him to accompany me to the elevator because I had problems with the security guard after hours on Saturday. I feel safe strolling behind this almost-cop in uniform. The guard gives me no problem. I thank Roger and take the elevator up. As I round the bend on mother’s floor, I overhear two nurses at their station talking.
“Better phone the daughter.”
(From You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)
Today, as I journey through the same age as Mom’s last year, I consider if I am discriminated against in any way (subtle or not) and I have to conclude that for the most part I am not…yet. But I also have to consider my life situation. I am self-employed but if I had to look for a full-time job would I be discriminated against because of my age? I am able to get my Canada Pension Plan before turning 65. I get seniors discounts (before 65) at several stores, railway travel, and my bank (no account fees except for bounced cheques). And sometimes someone even offers me a seat on the subway, streetcar or bus – and I don’t take that as an insult. I get respect in my profession (writing, editing, writing instructing and speaking) although I think that comes from experience, but experience comes with age. Catch 22?
No, the only derogatory age item I can think of now is being called “dear” or “ma’am” I am not anybody’s “dear” or “deer” for that matter, and I hate being called “ma’am,” although I have to admit I got “ma’am” when I was in my 30s.
There are studies done and article written on ageism in relation to health and work. One of the most interesting is connected to the UK’s change in law in 2011 regarding mandatory retirement age. Read about that at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/sep/30/abolition-default-retirement-age-ageism-at-work, which also contains links to other articles on age discrimination. And go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/17/age-discrimination-work-peoples-panel for comments by five people on age discrimination – too old or too young for their work. Also check out Linda Woolf’s excellent thesis on the subject at http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/ageism.html
You be the judge on this. But it is worth looking around and seeing what exactly is going on with age discrimination – despite it being illegal in many countries, at least for job discrimination.
Meantime, I’m going to work on my attitude towards myself. And give a pep talk to a friend feeling OLD because she is approaching 60.
Only Child Writes