Ageism by an Ageist

“If each of us lives long enough, we will all feel at least one form of systemic disadvantage or discrimination in our lifetimes, and that’s when people regularly stereotype us as ‘old’.”

I’ve said that hundreds of times in workshops or keynotes with a kind of dispassion, but not anymore: I turned 65 last month. I feel self-conscious about even disclosing that, so I guess I’m feeling my outsiderness in a new way. 

I feel like the world is trying to tell me something…

At the market, clerks ask me if I need help carrying my groceries to the car. I tell myself “I guess all that time I spend working out and being fit doesn’t show.” But maybe they are supposed to say that to everyone and I’m just being self-conscious.

Younger people sometimes ask summarizing questions like,

“So Jim, what was X like back in YOUR time?”

I thought now was part of “my time”. They are probably just trying to include me.

When talking about technologies like crypto or AI, people assume I don’t know what they are talking about and offer me “catch up” definitions, as in…”Jim what Jasmine is talking about is …..”. I get their intent to be helpful, but the assumption that I am too old to “get it” when it comes to technology is, frankly, irritating. 

OK, so – reading what I just wrote – why am I ascribing everything I feel about being older to the comments of everyone else? I guess because I’m either avoiding dealing with my age or I am in some form of denial…probably both.  

My aging – and people’s reactions to how I look – has left me feeling as if I have crossed over from theory and observation to reality and experience. To be clear, from what I have seen, what I am experiencing is not even close to the frequency, severity or restriction of what women, LGBTQ+folks, men and women of color, or people with disabilities experience.

Perhaps what is similar is the impact on my sense of self as a result of how the world sees me.  I am unable to pretend my age is invisible to the world; in fact sometimes it feels as if the only thing the world sees about me is my age.

I know, some of you are saying “Welcome to the Club”. I’ll learn from it. 

How is getting older for you? I’m always open to pointers and new perspectives. Let me hear from you.

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