(Not at my own expense. The poking fun at elders that is sometimes not so funny.)
I have been called too sensitive in my life.
These days, when someone tells me that I am sensitive, I say thank you.
Because being sensitive is a gift. A gift that helps me connect with others. Helps me understand their pain. Helps me be with them. Helps me empathize.
It also makes me bristle at some of the ageism that I see around that is supposed to be funny. Ageism that makes fun of seniors, and that , in my opinion, does harm to our image. Externally and internally.
Yes, things about aging are funny. And a sense of humor is vital at this time of our lives. Laughter is often the best response. I laugh at myself and with my friends often. The memory issues, the joints that don’t work quite as well as they used to. The age related changes that come, that we must learn to cope with and deal with. It’s part of life and it can be funny at time.
But not when it is at our expense.
I see Medicare commercials that make me cringe.
The older woman, “Martha”, who is called “cranky” and is portrayed as stubborn and unwilling to see the benefits of what the narrator is trying to show her about the Medicare advantage plans. She yells, pouts, crosses her arms over her chest, and is the caricature of a cranky old woman.
The couple where the wife is yelling at her husband, asking why he hasn’t called Medicare to get the newest part C plan. She goes on to tell him of all the benefits of this new plan, what it covers, why they need it. My question is this. If this woman is so knowledgable and informed, I have to wonder what makes her incapable of making a phone call herself? Ageism and sexism team up here.
The two older women who are calling Medicare together and the younger woman on the other end of the call laughing at their antics and arguments with each other during the call. They are subtly portrayed as cute. “Cute” can be deadly. It can make someone less than the other, inferior, not to be taken seriously.
I may be told that I am being too sensitive. That I take things too seriously. However, when these portrayals, stereotypes and caricatures end up becoming the lens through which elders are often seen, there can be harm done here.
There is invalidation of the whole person, the life experience, the whole fabric of their being. It can end up protraying them (us) as a shadow and comic version of who we were. Something to be laughed at, indulged (like a child), tolerated and condescended to. Not a whole living being with a lifetime of experience and wisdom to share.
I think that we need to be aware of what we make fun of.
There is more awareness of the importance of not doing this to various groups these days, which is great. But elders still seem to be considered fair game.
There is a saying that we teach people how to treat us.
So let’s have the conversation more often about what these jokes and ridiculing may result in. It may be at the expense of a group of us that are already feeling pushed aside, invisible, no longer valued as productive members of society.
Sometimes there can be much hostility and passive aggressiveness in a joke, in teasing. There can be a fine line when that turns into ridiculing and devaluing, making someone less than.
And, sadly, these images can be internalized so that we begin to see ourselves this way.
Can’t I take a joke? Not so much anymore. I have taken far too many jokes in my life about various groups that I have belonged to. And I am tired of it. I have had enough.
We deserve better. And we deserve to think of ourselves in better ways as well. We are not caricatures. We are elders with much to offer. And we deserve to be seen, heard, and valued.
6 thoughts on “No, I Can’t Take A Joke”
It should come as no surprise that such snarky advertisements incorporating this kind of blatant ageism would be coming from a Medicare Advantage plan, a program created in 2003 by then President George W. Bush to try to privatize Medicare, but which has instead arguably become one of the biggest and cruelest scams that has ever been foisted on American senior citizens. The following YT video outlines this in some detail. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXfiSmul_qM
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Interesting piece. Thanks, Steve.
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In all fairness, Original Medicare is usually not sufficient to cover catastrophic illness. A Medigap policy is usually needed, and those can be quite expensive. And of course the ‘snarkiness’ of the ad is done intentionally inasmuch as the target audience for Medicare Advantage is ‘just turned 65’ young and healthy seniors, or people who like to be perceived that way, not old, sick and crotchety ones (like me?!) where the whole concept just breaks down completely. I used to work in the TV industry business ‘back in the day’ at NBC in Burbank. That whole industry is carefully orchestrated around the idea of selling stuff to a target audience. Since you, unlike me, tend to be on the younger, healthier end of the spectrum, you are probably in that targeted group. In this case they just made a booboo. Instead of selling you Medicare Advantage they just pissed you off! Maybe time for them to hire a new ad agency!
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They do piss me off!
And I also feel that way about other ways that seniors are ridiculed, laughed at, discounted, etc…. More than solely by Medicare ads. They’re one very good example of that, and there are others. That’s really more the point that I was trying to make. And especially to not do that to ourselves or each other.
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I agree completely, Jo! Sometimes I tend to overlook just how upset and pained other people can become at things that don’t necessarily affect me in such a profound way. And yet here we are in cyberspace. I cannot see your facial expressions, your hand gestures or eye messages. All I can see is what comes out of your keyboard, or doesn’t, as the case may be – and interpolate from there!
We have the NHS here in the UK and so Medicare ads don’t hit my view. Although I’m no spring chicken, I act like someone two thirds of my age. We have to be careful not to judge the young people, but I agree that what is portrayed in the media has to be presented in a positive way. Unless an individual person is a dick, then take the gloves off. Like when one cat says to the other cat returning from the vet “Spade” calling out was is.