Monday, April 18, 2011

"Uncle Jack," or, Ageism - It's for real

The titular "Uncle Jack" is not my uncle.  I have no Uncle Jack, though I do have a few uncles.

I met Uncle Jack yesterday at a one year old's birthday party.  I was related to no one there but my wife and we were there because the mom is her friend from high school.

Long story short, Uncle Jack is around 92 and pretty awesome.  Incredibly sharp and astute and interesting.  However, long story short, he was not one of the people there that I was seeking out to introduce myself to and chat with. When one of the mother's friends seemed to have gotten cornered by Uncle Jack into a conversation, my wife and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing:  oh boy, poor thing, look at her stuck in that conversation.

When the two of them were temporarily parted during the serving of the meal we managed to get a word into her about it.  Essentially, oh jeez sorry, that stinks!  And she said:  Oh no, he's probably the most interesting person here!  Did you know...

And I was immediately impressed by this sub-30 year old who I'd just met that day.  Here she was bucking the unfortunate way most people are with the elderly (including, as we have seen, my wife and I in our attitude towards Uncle Jack).  He ended up sitting across from us during the meal and as he was still eating and my wife and most people were up and about again, I had the great pleasure to get into a conversation with him myself.  I won't go into the details of it, for the sake of length, but I'm very happy to have spoken with him.  And I don't say that in a patronizing, how-fortunate-it-was-for-him-for-me-to-allow-him-to-speak-to-me, but because it was a gratifying experience for myself.

Anyway, in conclusion the experience was one that has caused me to reflect further on something that I already knew: ageism is for real, and most people who abhor discrimination likely discriminate in some way against the elderly.  And that's a bad, bad thing.

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