Oldr person playing a violin to the woes of ageist youth
Oldr person playing a violin to the woes of ageist youth

Why Ageism is a Problem of Youth and Vanity

The problem of “Ageism” involves two people. One, a young person, an adult in their twenties or thirties, and then you’ve got the target person; an older person.

The act of expressing ageist comments may seem like a harmless joke to some, but it is always directed at the person who is the butt of the joke. And that person will have to grin and deal with the “schadenfreude” effect that it causes.

It’s a stab at a person’s self-esteem. A joke at the cost of deeper emotions.

Schadenfreude, or better said, spiteful fun at the cost of another person’s feelings when they are in a situation that they don’t fully control.

The Problem of Ageism

Older people are well aware that younger people often believe that they will stay the same forever. The ageing process won’t affect them, because they won’t allow it. It’s a strange belief, and not so uncommon as you might think.

There are plenty of Dorian Grays about in the world. There are various interpretations of this Oscar Wilde story, but vanity is certainly at its core.

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Dapper Geezer who might be Ageist

The vanity and hubris of youth can sometimes last longer than the look of youth and the person believing themselves still to be young, can often make a fool of themselves as they continue to believe that they are younger than all those around themselves. Vanitas.

Getting Older, or more Mature?

Maturity is wonderful experience if it’s taken a step at a time. The need to impress dissolves into a knowledge that there is no need to attempt to teach others what life will one day teach them anyway.

Becoming an older geezer can be a good experience if you are aware of the possibilities in life.

Self esteem can be at a healthy high in those years, sometimes it can become battered by the arrogance of better-knowers.

Life is a good teacher, and a harsh master.

An older person has lived a life, they are 40, 50, 65, 95 years old. What they know about life has developed into a complex book of memories. The need to share that book with young up starts, to show a page, unasked, to a youth who already knows best, is to invite disdain and a reaction that can turn into an opportunity to remind the older person that they couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to be 25 years old, or 32 years of age.

They are old, and they got that way through their own fault. As if to be older is a punishment that some of have to bear for sins of the past. This can sometimes be the attitude of a younger person, bent on protecting their own image of being lucky enough to be young.

I know that when I was young, I caught myself thinking it would be so good to be able to stay thirty. An age when you’ve done a lot of things, been places, met an array of people from all the walks of life. Been brave already, and saved a baby from a burning house.

Thirty feels magnificent. So does thirty two, and a couple of years older. But when you suddenly hit 40 years old, you find that it seems like a good time to take stock, have a think about life. Where have you been , what have you really done?

40 Years on the planet, and already one or two of your old friends have left the game of life. their time was short, and it seems that they died young. Well, they would, they were young.

But something about 40 years of life can make you sit up and look around with very keen eyes.

There are many sayings about middle-aged people. At first, they seem like a small joke, but really they have become a belief through repetition from the voice of youth that soon become hurtful and damaging to a person’s self-esteem.

“40 isn’t old — if you’re a tree!”

“I’m 40, I’m not old, I’m retro. And when I’m 60 I’ll be vintage”

There are many more sayings that seem to make an excuse for being middle aged and older.

Prejudice is a vehicle for the problem of ageism. People offering a job, will be dead nice to a silver haired fifty year old who just walked in for an interview. Their experience and knowledge could be so useful, but the fear that they might take over the company and run it better than present management, is always present.

Nobody wants somebody to walk in the door, unknown, and show everybody a better way to do things. It ruins the flow of things, so they say.

Ageism can run both ways. I think the older person who bitches and moans about young people having no character, lacking moral fibre or being down right annoying, is partly caused because the older person may have already experienced the constant feeling of being discluded from a part of society that doesn’t want them there. Younger people don’t want older people to join in on their fun times, so they should just leave and go and visit a ball house, or a quiet pub down the road.

If that doesn’t hit you in the ego and fragment your self-esteem, nothing will.

We are not all elephant skinned, and it’s better to go through life and feel something, than to protect yourself by becoming and egoistic, thick skinned git, who will definitely turn into a grumpy old geezer who sits on his balcony, points his cane at passers by and complains at them.

Youth Wins, but Experience Overwhelms

Young people aren’t taught anything about life at school, or about ageing, and how it might feel to be 60 years old.

To build a concept of what ageing is, to grasp a few ideas about the process of becoming older, isn’t a mystery.

Education is very much a personal thing in life; you got to find out for yourself, mainly. Nobody is going to tell you the secrets, regardless of how many “The Secret to…” articles are written on the internet.

Every human has an obligation to take life seriously, and a right to let it go at the weekends, that comes from a 59 year old who spent a lot of life burning the candle at both ends. I figured out in the end, you don’t have to go down town every night, save some for old age.

Being an educated person is a matter of making learning a life long practice. Never quit reading good books, learning more about all the things that make you curious — find out whether it might be something worth pursuing, or not. Only doing, and study will show you.

Education extends to wherever you want it to. Discovering what it might be like to be older than yourself, would mean reading autobiographies written by adventurers, business people, criminals who have lived the life and have something interesting to tell. every life is worthy of some attention, if you want to learn.

It might lead a person to really desire the company of these older people, conversations could turn out to be fascinating, interesting, educating.

Unfortunately, nobody teaches young people that there is value in learning from your elders. especially in a world that has now become even younger in areas of achievement.

22 year old billionaires. Top influencers who have just left university, fashion experts with followings of millions, and rock stars of everything seem to rule the day and the internet — the only place where people look these days.

When you are young, you don’t know much. But you do have the energy to find out, to learn and use the knowledge gleaned from new experiences. But to believe that your own corner of the world, your own experiences are so unique that those who went before you couldn’t possibly know how it feels, how it tastes, and that it has been done before you ever even thought about it, is a foolish way to go forwards in life.

It leads to becoming a grumpy old geezer sitting on the balcony…

The problem of ageism is that it destroys a lifetime of building self esteem. No wonder that many older people suffer from depression, and give up hope of living a retirement with joy and happiness.

When you meet, or see from a distance, older people, think of it as a reflection in the mirror of life. You are seeing yourself, a small flash, a glinting of what you might look like, and speak like when you are sixty years old.

Don’t contribute to the problem of ageism through being ignorant of the people who you meet.

You can’t know what you will feel like when you are sixty or forty years old, you can only guess. To guess that you won’t know a damned thing, be grumpy and stupid, no fun, and irritating to young people is wrong.

At forty, sixty, seventy and onward you will be the sum of your actions and the wisdom of your experience. You will probably keep it all to yourself until a polite young person asks you to tell them, ‘what’s it like being older?’

Written by

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living http://seandurham.eu

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