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Too Old For the Internet

category_bug_ageism.gif Time Goes By was conceived as a platform to investigate “what getting older is really like.” When it was launched late in 2003, I had spent six or seven years researching aging only to find that all but a tiny portion of popular writing and professional research focused on decline, debility and disease.

Since no one wants to die, I reasoned, there must be something good about getting old, so I decided to write about it myself. I wasn’t clever enough to have a goal in mind beyond a vague idea of seeing where the work would take me, and the surprises have been many. A few:

  • More people than I expected think getting older is just fine, but…
  • More people by magnitudes spend billions of dollars a year on bogus anti-aging products
  • The more I’ve learned about aging, the more there is to know
  • Real friendship is possible across the ether of cyberspace
  • Blogging - on any topic or no particular topic - is so good for elders, it is worth encouraging, promoting and teaching
  • The prevalence of ageism and age discrimination is worse than I imagined

Sometimes that last item all but defeats me. Every now and then, there is an ageism story so horrific that I’m tempted to hit the delete button on the entire blog and lose myself in mystery stories for the rest of my life. Today is one of those days.

Intending to sign up for broadband internet service, Mrs. Greening-Jackson stopped in Carphone Warehouse, a UK-based chain of communications stores…

“The young man said ‘Sorry, you’re over 70. It’s company policy. We don’t sign anyone up who is over 70.’

“Later a young lady said company policy is that anyone over 70 might not understand the contract. She said, ‘If you would be prepared to go to the shop in town and take a younger member of your family we might give you a contract.’

“’I have just completed a visa form to go to Russia. Last year we did one for walking the Wall in China and here is this person saying I would not be able to understand a basic form – and it was basic. It is pure ageism.’

"’Somebody has decided when you turn 70 you lose a lot of your mind. I find this is ridiculous.’"

- Thisislondon, 3 September 2006

The TimeGoesBy Bias Test makes the bigotry in the company’s policy crystal clear: in the phrase, “anyone over 70 might not understand the contract,” substitute “blacks” or “women” for “anyone over 70.”

With apparently no shame, Carphone Warehouse defends an offensive policy against elders they would not dare use against other groups. And although a new law prohibiting age discrimination in the workplace goes into effect next month in the U.K., it does not apply to consumers.

Imagine how life would be for elders if all retailers and services operated on Carphone Warehouse's principle.

Many years ago, I dated a man who was a knowledgeable and astute political critic. Often, after an evening discussing the state of the world, he would wind down to the same, irrefutable conclusion: “Nothing is getting any better.”

And nothing in regard to ageism and age discrimination has gotten any better in the years I’ve been writing Time Goes By. It is so tiring, so discouraging.

[Hat tip to Sophy Merrick, Liz Ditz of I Speak of Dreams and many others.]


Yes, it is discouraging. Your blog has made me aware of ageism. I never thought much about it because my parents both remained vibrant into their nineties. You are doing such a service to society with your astute comments. Here’s what I suggest: couldn’t we all write letters of protest to Carphone Warehouse? Perhaps a flood of emails from elderbloggers would make them rethink their policy?

okay, it's bad out there. but ten years ago, when i was 63 and just retired, there was no such thing as elderblogging. would have been wonderful.

left a comment at thisislondon site you linked to. if many of us did that AND got this story picked up on this side of the pond, think we'd be doing the right thing.

I hear you Ronni. These kinds of things should just get the engine jump started; there is so much to do and so little time to do it. Where does one begin? It could be overwhelming. But then something like this occurs, and oh, now here is an opportunity... Time to focus! And write to rally the troops!

Mother Theresa is supposed to have said, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Keep going. I'm 69, have two blogs, and regularly burn out and wonder why I bother. It's just part of the job.

As a purely personal note, I hate the term elderblogger.

AARRRRGGH! Makes me want to scream.
I left a comment at thisislondon, too. Now I think I'll send it to my local paper.

This ageism problem is something we all need to be concerned with -- even just out of selfish interest -- since we all end up older, no matter what age we are now. There are some circles in Los Angeles where being thirty-five is considered too old to work in Hollywood!

Well, as Dad said, "People are no damn good." And it was the potential for "bad" as well as the actual "bad" that he was referring to. It's uphill work all the way and as Mother Theresa said when asked how she could do for ALL those suffering people. . .I'm just helping the person in front of me.

Thanks for this site and your work. I have had and have a similar vision and share many of your observations. "Ageism", however is a symptom, just as Alcohol is a symptom of a disease which is more philosophical than the product of bad people. Our paradigm or culture for growing older is one of decline but we relate to older folks (including ourselves) as if aging is personal ... like treating sick fish without see the pond is polluted. To transform this culture we need to build a critical mass of folks who can first of all be responsible for this condition...as with any segment of society that has experienced discrimination, freedom and power begins by declaring responsibility for the fact of the condition and stop being victims.

I'm sad to say that doesn't suprise me one little bit about my country.

As discouraging as it may be, you have to remember that some of us are the "voices crying in the wilderness". We must not stop showing people that merely getting older does not render one useless.

If I lived in the UK, I would not patronize that shop.

At 70 years of age myself, I am outraged to read about what this lady in the UK experienced.

I strongly support your efforts to bring ageist issues to the forefront of conversation. I can understand why you may feel discouraged from time to time that your efforts may be falling on too many deaf ears. But, there are many of us out here who are not deaf to the message.

Progress for meaningful change is almost always slow. Someone needs to talk about the issues. Who is going to do that? I knew I had found the voice that I had been seeking, who had a medium to present the message, when I discovered your "Time Goes By" blog.

I think the comments I read here are the most encouraging, as a group, I've read since first visiting this blog. The reason is, because most speak of taking some sort of meaningful action, and that is precisely what I believe must occur. We have to do more than just let you write about it, and us comment about it here.

I agree we need to make others, the media, et al, aware of the issues, solutions and have been regularly doing that myself as best I can.

I thank you for your efforts, Ronni, for me, my family, future generations who will benefit from our successful efforts. If you feel discouraged let us know, and we'll try to give you a boost in your morale.

Yes Ronni. I read this article over the weekend and thought somebody was pulling my leg---it sounded like something from the Onion. I was horrified to learn that not only had the incident actually happened but that the company was standing pat on their decision. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It's so absurd!

I just hope someone tries to pull that kind of nonsense on me! I'll guarantee I can understand anything a 40 year old can---and I know I'm not alone here. Bring 'em on!

I doubt I can change the all-too-common stereotype of confused older folks shuffling around in Depends. I may be one soon but until then, I'll kick your butt if you get patronizing with me. And I'll encourage all my friends to do the same.

If only the Queen would go in and try to sign up for a "TalkTalk phone!!

Note to self: Avoid Carphone Warehouse at all costs!

I am with notdotdot Wish the Queen would try to sign up :)

I was agape (is that right?) at this blatant ageism. But you Ronni, through your blog, are getting the word out there about age discrimination etc and that's gotta be a good thing. Please keep going ey?

I'm 39 and I struggle with forms some times because they are more often than not really badly designed. Just this morning I spoke to someone at a school vacation care place and told them how confused I was at the forms I'd recently had to fill in.

Outrageous! I hate to be cynical but...one could guess that Carphone Warehouse may already have had complaints about "over selling" to or cheating elders in some way. Like corporations that offer diversity training after being caught discriminating, most companies won't turn away a sale unless they're nervous about something.

Thanks for bringing this to light. Boycott!!

I know it is discouraging to see such a blatant example of ageism. I think your best work is exposing the hidden examples of ageism.
I would like to see a society that honors their elders instead of dismissing them.

For the person who dislikes "elder blogger" a politician in the UK referred to "silver surfers."

I am 81 years old and, fortunately, have never experienced the kind of blatant discrimination that Carphone doled out. However, my hearing has so badly deteriorated that I have been treated like an idiot child when I was unable to understand what was being said to me. Young people are especially prone to treat you as though you are not very bright. It is humiliating.

Oh my! I wonder what that salesman would have thought this past weekend when my man in Motown and I were encouraging his mother to take the computer classes at her assisted living facility! She is a bright, delightful lady who tells people that she's 93 1/2 because at her age, every day counts! Ageism is alive and well and I don't know what we can do to stop it. Supposedly, that can't discriminate in the workplace, but they do -- the favorite reason is that you're "over-qualified" which to me is synonymous with "old" and I am so tired of hearing it, I'm ready to stage a protest march! Old is beautiful, dammit!!!!

Darlene, what you described is a classic experience of all too many hard-of-hearing people. You may not be able to change them, but you can change what you think about how you experience that event.

You must persist in telling them you don't understand simply because you don't hear well. Expect them to repeat as many times as you need to hear until you understand.

Their failure to be considerate, understanding, accommodating, is their problem from ignorance -- not yours!

Hard-of-hearing people must speak up for themselves. You do not have to allow yourself to feel humiliated.

The irony is that more and more younger people are experiencing hearing loss at younger ages and will be in your shoes sooner than they realize. They might as well learn now from your behaviors how they'll need to cope.

That's absolutely outrageous. My father was still practicing medicine at that age (and beyond). My husband's grandfather plays internet chess, aged 88. And (as others have pointed out) the ruling monarch of England is herself in her 80s! So to assume randonly that after your 70th birthday you are incapable of understandign a contract is pure nonsense. I have no doubt that these guys have had complaints about contracts sold to elders (and probably not-so-elders!) but how incredibly insulting to say that the problem is not with their staff or their contracts, but with the customer! And what a joke to say that a younger member of the family might be able to help them understand - if the staff can't explain the contract to the elder, how will they manage to do a better job with the long-sufering friend/relative? I plan to tell as many people as possible about this and certainly won't set foot in the Carphone Warehouse again.

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