Last week I had to renew one of my insurance policies, something I have done many, many times. The lady who served me was very nice and there shouldn’t have been a problem.
The trouble was she was ageist and I’m sure she wasn’t aware of it. She talked down to me the whole time and I’m sure she didn’t realise that that was what she was doing. Presumably the sight of my wrinkles and a few grey hairs had sparked this reaction in her. This customer was old so she was either a bit senile or not very bright seemed to be her automatic reaction to me. Having just completed my fifth degree a few months ago (a Ph. D.) this assumption was entirely unwarranted and I found it very annoying.
So what did I do? Absolutely nothing. I just copped it. I have been disgusted with myself ever since. My only excuse is that having been born lower class in class conscious England and a female in a sexist (at the time) country I went back to my roots and took the insult on my chin as I’d been doing when I grew up there. I just meekly accepted it. I wasn’t expecting it as I was just doing something perfectly normal so I guess my guard was down (excuse).
The poor assistant (I’ve just been watching Nelson Mandela’s funeral so forgiveness for her is on the agenda) would probably have preferred me to have pointed out the mistake she was making. Forgiveness for myself is less available. Every other older person (particularly female) will cop the same treatment and this will continue until someone has the guts to point out to her the mistake she is making.
This is how ageism continues and it’s up to each and every one of us to speak out otherwise it will continue to be a problem and we older people will continue to be treated as second class citizens. I hope that next time it happens to me I will think to speak out and accept my responsibility as one of our older citizens. Just imagine if the next person (or anyone else in our age group) is treated like that particularly if they already happen to be going through a bad patch.
It reinforces my belief that, like sexism and racism, it will only stop if we, as individuals, speak out individually every time it happens to us. Otherwise we will continue to be regarded as, and treated as, a burden on the community which the press loves to paint us as. Remember how much we cost in terms of pensions and health care? The talented side of us and how much we contribute to the community and how much we have to offer is the good side of the story which no-one wants to tell or hear.
As individuals we need to let everyone know. It is our responsibility. Even when we are just paying a bill.
Audrey