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Friday, April 18, 2014

Ageism and Intergenerational Relations

Intergenerational Relations: A Vignette[1]

       Lisa Upshield, a woman of formidable reputation, who is known for her forthright comments to City Council meetings, has been unable to object when her son calls older people “ ‘Coffin Dodgers’. Until this week, that is.  Perhaps because of the diary she was keeping for the Senior’s Help Project, she chose finally to confront him.
     “I was in the back of the car with Kevin, my grandson, and Eddie (her son) was driving and he made reference to the driver in front who he thought was taking his time, saying to his son. “Hey Kevin, there’s another coffin dodger.” meaning an elderly driver. And Kevin went titter titter, because he thinks his dad is quite good.
         Eddie does this a lot, she says, and before today Lisa has been loath to object because she feels he does it by way of affectionate teasing.
         “This is the same son that when I show signs of forgetfulness he says: “ The shotgun’s ready mother.  Watch it.” He speaks in a rather blunt way anyway.  This is his only way of expressing his feelings.’
         It appears that the mother and her son have developed a certain style of relating to one another, a kind of code for expressions of affection.   Instead, I said ‘He makes a bit of joke….’ A poor joke. He makes a poor joke out of things.” She replied.”  But on this day, the first day of her diary, Lisa decided to say something.  She couldn’t respond directly to his jokes about her, but did seriously say “ I seriously disapprove of you passing onto to Kevin, at 5, such unpleasant expressions.  I     object to one generation passing that sort of expression to the next.  I take exception to that’ to which he replied: “Shut up you silly old bat.”  Now I would have hit the ceiling if that happened to me.  But she didn’t.  “It’s his way of speaking. On the whole I tend to ignore it. Or perhaps I am a coward. I would neverdream of saying: ‘ Do you mind not calling me a silly old bat? I find it offensive.”  Because I don’t actually.  Anyway I like bats, they are very jolly animals.  “But it is age discrimination.”

[1]  This vignette was used in a workshop designed and presented over 10 years ago as I began my journey into investigation of ageism.  What do you think of this story?

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