Naming ageism gets me into deep trouble on Facebook

Naming ageism

Naming ageism got me into deep trouble recently, and I’ll do it again when I need to. I named it when I saw it because it seemed the right response. However, I ended up on the wrong side of one of the residents in this apartment building, the target of his wrath.

Sadly, I’ve never quite learned to shut my mouth in time, or restrain myself properly. Or perhaps I thought my comments reasonable, well thought out and inoffensive. Obviously not! I spent rest of the day feeling miserable.

The story

This is how it happened. Someone wrote on the residents’ Facebook group page about a complaint made to the complex’s management about her dog. 

A respondent replied that the complaint must have come from ‘the retirement village crew’.

That’s a clear reference to the older  people who live here, and who, he implied, were out of place. We should, apparently, live in places set aside for older people, retirees, not here, with younger people. He lumped us together and further implied we’d be the only ones who’d complain.

My first comment on the Facebook page, ‘Sexism, racism or ageism are never OK,’ drew a subdued response. But the person quickly followed with a second post, this time a denial of my reality, stating that he didn’t agree that his comment was ageist. 

I could have ignored him, of course. But I responded in a very measured way, pointing out that I have a clear idea about what naming ageism means. I even said I’d previously worked in the area of ageism and elder abuse. 

The poor fellow saw red and told me in no uncertain terms that I had no idea and no authority in any area! He didn’t care about my professional experience, and my opinion was worthless.  He used words like, ‘precious one’ (a put down) and slated my ‘hypersensitivity’ because of my previous employment.

Other words, ones I don’t use in my blogs, punctuated his comment. He invited me to take him on, face-to-face. And finally told me to take care  (a further put-down).

I felt bullied.

angry puppet by Daniella Russo

My responses

At first I questioned whether I’d gone too far. But that didn’t make sense. The man had lumped together all the older people who live in our apartment block. His description, ‘Retirement village crew’ thinly veiled his disdain. We don’t belong here! Next, he’d assumed it would be one of us who’d complain. Perhaps he thought old people don’t like dogs?

My comments were factual, reasonable, gentle. But somehow, I felt embarrassed, humiliated by a stranger because I’d said something he didn’t like. My years of thinking, talking and writing about how people are damaged by stereotypes – sexism, racism, heterosexism – faded under the onslaught.

I took care not to enrage him further and withdrew quietly. But the experience shows again how ingrained ageism can be in our community. He continued to argue with another person after that. Later I felt comforted by a personal message of support.

The pages’ moderator also told me he thought the comments were not OK, and offered to take close down the post. 

How naming ageism (or any other stereotype) works

Naming granny

Naming ageism may not have made a difference to that one person. But others obviously saw my comment and ‘liked’ or replied to it. Together we began to form a community of people who live here who are aware of the rights of older people, and the shared responsibility we have to look out for each other.

As Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison AO said, 

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

I’ll continue naming ageism if for no better reason than that doing so may help fight dementia. Here’s an article from Medical News Today you might like to read. ‘How fighting ageism may lower dementia risk’.

Related blog posts on my site

I wrote a blog when we first moved here.  ‘Apartment life delights.‘ My opinion remains the same, four years later.

Here’s another. ‘Six reasons why apartment life could be better than retirement living.‘ The West Australian Newspaper  published a version of this as a feature article.

One about ageism. ‘Age discrimination or ageism in practise.’

Join the Conversation

11 Comments

  1. And again, dearest Maureen, you lay bare the atrocity that so many of people in our age bracket endure. And, as is quoted – the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Let’s all of us do some marching – thank you dear blogger.

    1. Elizabeth, thank you for your support. It is high time those of us who recognise ageism (and sexism, racism and heterosexism) started to call it out, in spite of the reactions of others who do not understand, or find it in their best interests to play dumb.

  2. You were right to speak out, Maureen.The man ought to have responded with an apology for his obvious ageism. Instead, he chose to attack and bully you into backing down. I would feel exactly the same as you.
    The problem with this sort of nasty verbal encounter is that It hurts to the core, it fills us with anger and goes on to haunt us.

    I’ve never learned to shut my mouth in time either, or restrain myself properly. Do you remember a few months back when a blogger accused me of bullying him and blocked my comments?

    He’d written an article saying that no one should try to save the life of a person attempting to commit suicide. I foolishly and calmly told him how Graham and I had saved our daughter’s life following a serious sucide attempt. I explained how she now has a young family and is happy and relieved that those dark days are behind her.

    He told me I didn’t have the right to do that because it was her choice. I disagreed and told him that his words showed that he had little understanding of depression and mental health issues.

    To tell a mother that she did not have the right to save her daughter’s life was and is offensive, but my reply to him was akin to waving a red rag in front of a bull – he immediately blocked my comments, wiped the conversation and wrote a new post accusing me of bullying him.

    I was devastated to be accused in this way especially as I had no way of defending myself. It still hurts, especially when I see his avatar on the blogs of others.

    You were in the right Maureen, the male resident was definitely out of order.

    1. Oh, Sue, I think I must have missed some of that horrible, horrible conversation about whether we have the ‘right’ to preserve the life of another when they attempt to suicide. What an ignorant man, so lacking in compassion or even human understanding. I’m sorry you were subjected to such an unjustified attack from someone whose values clearly do not align with yours or mine. I’m surprised at the ignorance that surrounds mental illness, depression and the factors which influence the actions of people who want to take their own lives. I’m raw from the death of my daughter not quite a year ago. It was not her first attempt.

      It’s slightly amusing that these people act as if we have offended them deeply – the red rag to a bull syndrome – and think of our responses as being made deliberately to offend them. And it is difficult to recover from the attacks when we have no way to defend ourselves.

      Your experience was much worse than I can imagine.

      1. I gave Louisa CPR while Graham stayed on the phone with Ambulance Control. She remained in a coma for a week.

        When I wrote my final reply to this man, I thought about you and how you would have given anything to have had the opportunity to save Annie’s life.

        It wasn’t the first time he’d accused someone of bullying when their only crime had been to disagree with him.

        Thank you so much for your support, Maureen.

        1. That must be among the most scary things I can imagine doing. How wonderful for Louisa that her parents were so level headed and competent.
          And yes, I go over and over (but less now) what clues I might have missed that she was contemplating suicide, and how I might have helped her had I known. But she didn’t want us to know, and was very determined to succeed.
          I guess we need to keep working towards justice in the world, making our opinion known, and continuing to make the lives easier for those who need us. And about your comment about support, Sue. I think it is a reciprocal relationship. But I do wish I could meet you!

  3. Bravo for you Maureen.

    You have to stick by your guns and state your side of the story.

    To have lumped all seniors into a complaing and argumentative ensemble was boorish and insensitive.

    Perhaps this guy has parental issues that need to be resolved.

    Perhaps this bullying blowhard likes intimidating people and your age bracket is irrelevant to him.

    Don’t feel guilty for the brashness and arrogance of such idiots.

    Respomd if you want BUT you are under no obligation to become his private audience of one.

    He is using your position to serve as his own piblic platform.

    Remember your opinion is also important.

    If he is offened then tough.

    You take care. Be safe

    1. Hello, Gerry. Thank you for your lovely message of support. Who knows how the man’s mind works, or what problems he has faced or still faces. He certainly took a dislike to what I wrote, and even when the moderators of the apartment Facebook page took the thread down as being unworthy or what the group is about, he sent me a private message, asking for permission to comment on my blog. I ignored him. But I’m slightly wary of meeting him in a lift one day on my way about life. I will take care. Thank you again.

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