Councilman Lou Waters

Last month’s column about the cancellation of NBC’s hit show “Harry’s Law” and advertising “Tyranny” concentrating attention on the most desirable audience - those aged 18 to 49 - struck a nerve. The short shrift given older folks by popular culture is, in my view, offensive. And I’m not alone.

phurt wrote in: “I am fed up with the advertisers deciding what people want to watch.”

moshane58 chimed in: “I don’t know why some big law firm doesn’t take on these networks for age discrimination.  Isn’t there a law against this ?

And no, there is no such law.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is our only law against Ageism - a term coined in 1968 by Dr. Robert Butler, after the law was passed, that comprises a “systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this with skin color and gender.”

Ageism, as Dr. Butler described it is “a deep and profound prejudice against the elderly which is found to some degree in all of us.”

Yes, the 1967 law addresses ageism in the work place, but on the street, in our community public places, it still exists.  We’re doing better than before but only because we’re working at it. It was Reverend Billy Graham who said in 2006: “All my life I’ve been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old.” I know that’s true.

Oh, we get plenty of information on how we mistreat the older American.  I reported on a young woman whose college thesis on the subject required her application for a job, a ride on the bus, trips to the grocery store and the bank among other things - first as herself and then as an older woman under a professional make-up job and an aging suit.

Her report back made your skin crawl. Ageism is still with us.  Sometimes subtle. Sometimes not.  A recent quote on the masthead of a media gossip website by a local TV News Director: “I don’t care about experience. Experience means you’re old and unwatchable.

My jaw dropped.  But we’re working on it.  The Baby Boomers wanted to change the world.  This is their chance, by teaching us how to grow old in a new and positive way.

It will take pushing and shoving.  Each of us has a different point of view about growing older.  We have images about it formed during our youth - our experience of grandparents and their friends. The elders within we call them.  Are they negative? Then living longer may not be pleasant.  But if they’re positive,...perhaps we’ll soon see a positive new image of aging in America.

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