My ‘silver fox’ protest fell on deaf ears

‘Silver fox’ study in aged-care homes. This banner headline on page three of the local newspaper, The West Australian, demanded my attention. Articles about aged care always interest me. This one intrigued and then distressed me.

I wrote a post about it, pointing out the disrespect of calling any older man who showed interest in a woman, a ‘Silver fox’ – a predator. And the opposite, an older woman in the same situation referred to as a ‘cougar.’ Such derogatory terms!

The journalist reported that the study would involve asking carers in aged care facilities about the sexual behaviour of residents. This also appalled me. As if none of the residents in aged care could speak for themselves. They need to be spoken about, like objects rather than subjects, of their own lives?

Regular readers of my blog understood. They got what I wrote, and why. They were appalled and outraged at the ageism of the article and the study itself.

Here’s a link to my blog post if you’d like to check it out.

Calling out ageism

I’m committed to calling out ageism wherever I see it. And I must say, it feels like almost everywhere I look.

Once, ‘call out’ meant literally to call out someone like a plumber or an electrician to fix something faulty. They charge what they named a ‘call-out’ fee, on top of their regular charges.  The Urban Dictionary defines ‘call out’ as

To verbally hold someone accountable for their words or actions.
I will call out anything that sounds stupid .” “I will call out your actions if they are questionable.”

It isn’t just me, by the way. Helen Garner wrote a fabulous article about ageism in her book, Everywhere I Look. Other people blog and tweet under the hashtag #AgePride and similar hashtags.

Joyce Williams MBE blogs under the banner of Grandma Williams. She’s a retired physiotherapist and her articles about age and ageing are both funny and thought-provoking. Here’s a link to her post about Age Pride and why we should all become involved

Back to the ‘Silver fox’ article

Writing a blog didn’t seem enough action to express my outrage over the ‘Silver fox’ story in the newspaper. I wrote emails to the institutions implicated in the article. They should be very concerned not only how, by why, their workers label and stereotype older people. My emails were respectful, reasoned and gentle.

The email to the chief of staff at the newspaper elicited a prompt reply. Within two hours someone in his office responded that

The article simply reports on a proposed study…

The issues of privacy and lack of respect are, I think, issues for the study, not for the article itself.

We haven’t breached anyone’s privacy nor been disrespectful.

She obviously didn’t work out that calling someone a ‘silver fox’ is disrespectful.

I’m still waiting for a response to my email to Advocare Inc, the organisation responsible for advocating on behalf of people receiving aged care services in Western Australia. I hope they take up the challenge to exercise their systemic advocacy skills on behalf of all residents.

Edith Cowan University’s response also came quickly. My complaint has been registered and referred to the relevant supervisor. I can expect a response within 45 working days. Seems like a long time to wait but this issue won’t go away.

5 replies on “My ‘silver fox’ protest fell on deaf ears”

  1. It’s frightening how, for all the supposed education we have today, that such attitudes confront us – almost as if there had never been increased knowledge and awareness that could improve outlooks.
    I’m appalled that an educational institution is directly implicated and certainly hope it’s looked into closely and rectified.
    Recent dealings with aged care issues and organisations reveal a vast gulf in society effectively managing and handling needs with respect.
    I sincerely hope the new Charter of Ages Care Rights, effective from July 1st, brings about change. I’ve no doubt it’s not going to happen overnight. Small steps, perhaps, Royal Commissions, and people like you, Maureen, raising your voice.

    1. That’s kind of you, Susan, but I can’t help raising my voice when I see ageism, sexism, racism . And I think my awareness of ageism, my newest passion, has been there for years, but I’ve let it slip by me.

      I’m not all that convinced that the new Charter of Aged Care Rights or the Royal Commission into aged care will make a lot of difference. There are too many people who need to be educated and made aware. As well as that, it is not in the interest of the wider society to take respect for older people seriously so they won’t even bother to learn about what it might be like to be old and frail. Or old and not frail, but somehow invisible, for example in queues in shops and on footpaths. I’m not frail, but I’m often in danger of being bowled over by those younger than me. That’s one not very good example of ageism. There are many more, much more serious.

      I’d love to think that you and all my friends and family care enough about the issue to call out ageism whenever you see it. There’s a little grass roots movement on Twitter using the hashtag #AgePride that I’m interested in.

    1. Thanks, Sue. I seem to have a lot of energy about the dignity of age and how it is undermined.

  2. Maureen, when reading and clicking on the WP notification e-mail your latest article Casual Travel brings me straight here to this article. Oddly, it’s not showing up on my Reader either.

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