Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Stop Calling Gerontology “The Study of Old Farts”

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You’re not supposed to make fun of old people, you know. Even if they make easy, hunched-over targets.

It just shows poor taste, lack of judgment. And I’m not even talking about the feisty old people who will beat you ceaselessly with a cane in response. That is, if they can hear you in the first place. No, this rule applies to all old people, no matter how tempted you may be to mock their frailty.

That means no fiddling with hearing aids – such as merely mouthing words, causing them to turn up the volume, at which point you shout – and no imitating the way geezers hack and spit. No calling them geezers. No pulling your lips back around your teeth to evoke denture-free gums. And no comments about hair dyed unnatural shades of red or blue.

Old people are more keenly aware of their increasing infirmities than anyone else is, so there’s little need to remind them that their joints no longer function properly, that their degenerating vision makes it difficult to identify people, or that they can spend the better part of the morning just trying to tie their shoes. Bringing up incontinence will just piss them off, so hold it in.

Be aware that depression often occurs among the elderly, so avoid flippant references to it. The sense of losing control as one’s memory and control deteriorate would make anyone anxious, let alone someone who must now rely on others for basic hygiene. And never, ever, mess with their pills. Even if giving them a little too much of those green ones will cause the patient to sing rude songs.

Finally, never let on that old people creep you out. Being reminded of human mortality is never pleasant, least of all in the form of a shriveled up crank with a faulty memory. But you must retain your composure, even though the person before you may have long since jettisoned his or her own sense of dignity, such as by announcing that he shall no longer be wearing any pants.

You think I’m being tasteless; no, I’m instructing you how to avoid being tasteless. How will you know not to reflexively condescend, as if addressing a toddler, unless I tell you? You’re not very smart, after all, are you?

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Written by Thag

May 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

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