Yesterday I received a phone call from a young man working for a company that produces supplements for high profile national broadsheets and magazines. They were currently working on a 50+ supplement, and wanted the-Bias-Cut to get involved.
Whilst on the surface it sounded like a great opportunity, I politely declined. Why? Because most of the content in the supplement was about chair lifts, nursing homes, dentures… you get the picture.
Of course I have nothing against any of the above, but as a supplement that claimed to target women (and men) over 50, I told them it was more suitable for people over 80 (and even then a lot of 80+ people wouldn’t identify with it). They were completely stereotyping anyone over 50. I told the young man that the-Bias-Cut woman is modern, stylish, strong, discerning and energetic; not the person they were addressing.
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So what was his response? “Oh well we do have some other supplements for a younger demographic, such as young families, coming out that you might be interested in instead?”
I reiterated that it wasn’t the demographic that was the problem, it was their patronising and somewhat offensive pigeon-holing of it. Again, he suggested a supplement for a younger demographic. And despite reiterating my point several times again, he just could not understand it. To someone younger, the idea of someone over 50 being cool and stylish just didn’t add up.
A similar incident occurred a couple of weeks ago. After arriving home on a Monday after a work trip to Amsterdam (stay tuned for some amazing new pieces), I decided to go to the local cinema at around 6pm. After sitting down, I looked around and noticed the majority of the audience was over 60, and quickly remembered that this was the ‘Silver Screen’ showing, with discounted tickets for 60+ - something my mum and her friend occasionally attend. Again, it seems like there’s nothing wrong with this, but the set up was a different story. Those over 60 were offered a free cup of tea, and to make matters worse the heating wasn’t working so they were handing out blankets! The final nail in the coffin came with the ads before the film: they were about arthritis and funeral plans. I was appalled, and have never seen such adverts before any other film in my life!
After telling my mum of my horror, she nodded, saying how patronising she finds it all – from the tea to the nomenclature (and only goes due to the cheaper tickets). She said she had commented upon this to staff several times, but they were always younger and didn’t seem to get the point.
Now, of course I’m not saying that everyone who’s younger thinks like this. After all, I’m 26. But it’s a clear illustration of how there’s still a big divide between generations. Whilst those over 50 may collectively be redefining what it means to be ‘older’, this new attitude isn’t being translated to most millennials. So inevitably they are holding on to their stereotypical attitudes, often not even aware of how ageist they are being.
Generally speaking, being younger hasn’t been an issue when engaging with others to discuss ageism. I’ve been welcomed with open arms into many social media groups where the majority of members are over 40. But there has been the odd occasion where people have put up barriers. A couple of times I’ve been branded as patronising because I couldn’t possibly understand ageism due to my age. And recently a few events claiming to be ‘pro-age’ have wanted to ban attendance – both in terms of speakers and guests – by those under the age of 50 or 60. And in the aforementioned welcoming social media groups, there have been individuals who’ve expressed dislike of there being any members under a certain age.
This is part of the problem. If we continue to encourage division, how can we expect things to change? Yes, there are times we may feel more comfortable around our peers; but if we open the doors to other ages we might just discover we have more in common than we realise. And that differences can be understood and respected.
I am now friends with lots of people who are older. Even my boyfriend has 12 years on me. But we can still connect, engage in discussion and have an interest in the same topics and social issues. As a few of my ‘older’ friends have said to me: “the only real distinguisher is that our cultural references are different.” And that’s something we often laugh at!
I recently created a ‘50+ Industry Activists’ group – full of individuals who have businesses that are challenging ageism in their respective fields. The majority of the members are older, and yet I’m the founder, at 26. No one could care less because we have a common mission.
So yes, you may feel shunned by another generation. But isn’t it just as bad if you shun them too? We need to encourage conversation between all ages to broaden our minds and banish stereotypes, and we must join forces to fight ageism. Otherwise we’re just perpetuating the issue.
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