The Ageist Trap? Beware!

The Ageist Trap? What is that?  

Simple. It is just the unthinking use of words which reveal unwitting ageism.

Read a lovely blog today about our elders and how they should be given respect by us.

It reminded me of a similar kindly piece in a major National paper a little while ago. The writer  addressed it’s readers on the subject of: What we need to think about  when we are considering care for our elders……..

Here is another more recent one:


Wait a minute! What is going on here? 

Allow me to put some bold and capitals in there. We, Us, Our ….They!

Just who is this ‘We‘ these writers are talking to?  Sounds rather as if it is intended  for younger readers, doesn’t it?   Being a very ancient reader, I began to wonder. Was I not supposed to be reading this!

Close paper and have a think….

Who are these creatures categorised as ‘They‘? Do the writers  really not see me as ‘One of  us’?  Am I now some kind of ‘ Other’? Or are the writers just being patronising?

Not sure I like either of those thoughts. Begin to feel rather uneasy. You can hear the concern building up can’t you? Unthinking wording, kindly meant, yes, but that subtle unease continues…

Ask myself, “Does it matter? It is all being written with the best of intentions isn’t it?”  And I expect you are thinking ….lot of fuss about a few simple words. I wouldn’t blame you.

Can we try  an experiment?

Let’s try putting this piece  in a major paper.

img_0924          Grandma  Williams asks         “What shall  we do about the  Younger generation?”

The under 70s need our help. They are in trouble. Housing, stress, working hours have become too difficult for them. Some are collapsing, finding the strain of living too much.  

Younger, middle years people might look terribly  fraught and strained, but we need to remember they are humans, like us, but at an earlier stage of life. They should be given the same respect and help we would expect.   It is hard being in those middle years and it is up to all of us to care for them in any way we can.  We need to push the Government to find answers for this increasing problem.

Have you begun to share my concern? Hope you can see the cause for unease becoming clear.   Writing like this is demoralising and demeaning to its readers. Worse, it makes it obvious that whichever ‘They’ is being written about is not at present included.

Let’s go back to my original newspaper quote.

Was it accidental?  Did an editor not notice how patronising it was?   And was it seen as acceptable to allow a columnist to exclude people over 70 when addressing it’s readership?  Rather worrying isn’t?  Have the 30% + of us who now make up the ageing population become a different, invisible part of their customer base?

And if it was done unwittingly is that not of even more concern?  Doesn’t  it mean that someone unconsciously thinks of older people as a group outside their own active world? Did it not occur to the authors that, by using such casual wording, they were implying it was the case!

Even more worrying, did the writers , speaking on behalf of the elderly,  not realise that by using such words, they themselves were actually being ageist!

Sadly, I suspect they didn’t.  

The Trap caught them.



















  1. December 11, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    This volte-face piece is very apt and very well expressed.

  2. December 11, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    You really nailed it, GrandmaWilliams! Changing the perspective was a powerful way to illustrate this. Words (even the teeny tiny ones) are so powerful. Great article! I’m going to share this.

    • December 11, 2016 / 3:30 pm

      Many thanks! So glad you got it. Suspect something as simple as making people aware would be a great breakthrough. A bit like being careful about sounding racist?
      A campaign to make it politically uncorrect?

  3. December 12, 2016 / 5:19 pm

    All part of the government subtext …divide and rule. Blame the older members of the community for the ‘trouble’ they are and the ‘resources’ they swallow up and the ‘life chances’ that we are denying younger people. Next step: the workhouse. WE will resist! Zimmer poised >>to the barricades!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • December 12, 2016 / 6:45 pm

      Interesting isn’t it? I worry that it is a general feeling among the younger public. It isn’t easy to imagine being old and still feeling great is it? So I suppose we do seem ‘other’ to them.
      Somehow we need to change the sad image of the third age of life the media spreads. And spread the the alternative message that we really are very useful! And life for the majority of us Oldies is actually fine.

      • December 22, 2016 / 5:46 pm

        You are right about young people, but I hope it is not impossible to get some change. It seems to me that as we grow in numbers and onto healthier old age than ever before the image should improve and we are all certainly more vocal! Feeling increasingly positive!

        Have a lovely Christmas


  4. December 22, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    With respect, Joyce, I don’t think that changing the words will change the attitude. Did you or your peers not have a similar attitude to people of ages different from your own, when you were their age? Mine did. Attitudes to age start to change when we get the age-associated conditions, but I don’t think they arrive before that. To my mind, it’s much like how someone who has never lost a parent thinks about someone else losing a parent. They have no idea, no clue until it happens to them. THEN the attitudes begin to change.

    You and I can complain about these issues til we’re blue in the face but I don’t think it’ll change anything. I’ve also written similar posts (For instance, I’ve one about being called a ‘silver surfer’) but we’re not speaking to anyone who will listen and be able to change anything, at least not instantly. Not here on our blogs, anyway.

  5. December 22, 2016 / 2:40 pm

    By the way, I had a look for the author of the cutting you referenced (with the Prufrock quote) and it’s by Times journalist Rachel Sylvester. So – may I suggest that you contact her and tell her your concerns because really the ONLY way to get opinions about ageism into the public is to persuade people who can do it – to do it. She’s on Twitter and elsewhere. Or, if you get The Times or pay for it (as it’s under a paywall) you could write to her. Here’s the search I did on Google, that will help you find out how to contact her:

    • December 22, 2016 / 5:47 pm

      Yes, thanks. I did get it from the Times and have contacted her.

  6. January 2, 2017 / 5:32 pm

    I hope my comments didn’t upset you, that wasn’t my intention. I do like your blog.

    • January 2, 2017 / 5:47 pm

      Not at all. It is great to have someone who comments genuinely.please continue!

Leave a Reply