BEST OF 2022: When did age become a source of ridicule instead of respect?

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Man in OK, boomer t-shirt

OK, boomer’s not OK. Photo: Giacomo Lucarini.

Year in Review: Region Media is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2022. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking in 2022. Today, Zoya Patel argues, making age synonymous with irrelevance costs us all, and one day we’ll be the written-off ‘boomer’.

I’ve been hearing a certain derision lately towards the more mature members of our community, and it’s started to grate on me. Over and again, I hear people casually remark about ‘Boomers’ and old people in a way that makes age synonymous with irrelevance. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of it in the past myself.

But the final straw for me was hearing someone recently deriding a community group that provides local neighbourhood support and advocacy as being full of ‘old people and retirees’ – as though that somehow automatically negated their impact, relevance and authority.

Maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but I found it deeply troubling to hear such blatant ageism that also seemed illogical. Surely age and experience make someone more qualified to offer advice, opinions and ideas to a community forum? Just as youth affords a unique and important perspective, so does age. One isn’t automatically better than the other, but both are inherently necessary to provide a richness of ideas and views.

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This ageist rhetoric relies on the assumption that age makes a person ‘out of touch’, set in their ways and inflexible. And this may be the case for some people. But like all broad categories of humans, #notalloldpeople are closed off to new ideas, dismissive of young people or uninterested in continuous education.

Equally, being retired is often linked to being bored, and therefore over-engaging or meddling in volunteer groups as a way to find a purpose. Having people who are retired from their professional working lives who still want to contribute to their community and stay engaged is surely something we should celebrate.

I think part of the reason this attitude is becoming so entrenched is because of the Boomer vs Millennial intergenerational antagonism, which has seen shots fired on both sides. I’m surrounded by people my age who feel frustrated by their lack of economic power in contrast to our parents and older generations. This has solidified into a disdain for Boomers and everything they supposedly signify.

But any critical thinker knows that blaming a generation of people who all navigated their own challenges and inequalities in their life for the way that our capitalist system of wealth distribution has let us down is foolish. We’d be better off spending our energy collaborating to critique the system than engaging in pointless generational wars.

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Like most people my age, I’ve had annoying conversations with people older than me who have held views that aren’t aligned with my own or who don’t understand or want to engage with ideas or beliefs that have progressed beyond their own. But undoubtedly, those people went through a similar process with the generations before them – and if Gen Z’s ridiculing of my generation is anything to go by, it won’t be long until we’re the ‘irrelevant’ ones, scratching our heads and wondering how we got booted out of the conversation by people younger than us.

In my culture, and certainly the Aussie values I grew up with, age is something to respect. That doesn’t mean that everyone older than you automatically deserves respect as individuals, or that respect shouldn’t flow both ways. But there is a broadly understood value to age and experience and a shared acknowledgement of that.

We need to get past the stereotyping and ridiculing of age and build a conversation that understands and acknowledges the importance of a diversity of views without seeing excluding older people as a necessary byproduct of that goal.

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It is a pathetically simple and ignorant person who blames a stereotype, or a group of people as if they’re all alike.

We know that those doing it toughest are older women who didn’t have the opportunity to buy their own homes because as boomers, many were unpaid labour at home looking after kids and husbands, as that’s what was expected of women then. Some of those women are now homeless whilst others have been more fortunate. All boomers are not the same, just as all young people are not the same.

Some young people are earning a mozza and doing extremely well, whilst others are not. Certainly young women have much greater career options than boomers did, with much higher pay too. Many boomer women were forced to leave their jobs as soon as they got married and it was not always their husbands who forced this, often employers did including governments.

Time to wake up and really look at the facts, to see how the world works so you can make it work for you rather than complaining and blaming others.

“We know that those doing it toughest are older women who didn’t have the opportunity to buy their own homes”

Who’s we? If they were staying at home working, presumably they owned the home with their husband? And if they are separated would have gotten their share of the marital assets.

I agree with you that we shouldn’t stereotype, instead we should look at the actual data and facts.

Data that shows that Boomers as a cohort are wealthier than younger people, both in real and relative terms, now and when they were at the same age.

Housing is much harder to purchase proportionally than it was for previous generations.

Older generations have also benefited from significant government taxation changes that have enriched them and allowed very generous treatment both through their working age and into retirement.

Sure, there are some older people who didn’t or couldn’t save sufficiently, which is why we also have a generous social security system, which once again, younger people are paying significantly more into supporting older people, than previous generations did due to demographic shifts.

No one needs to “blame” others, an objective analysis of different generations speaks for itself.

Respect is earned, it’s not something owed. Consdering the world w have now now is one created by Boomers, they certainly haven’t earned any respect.

Simple reply to ‘ok boomer’ is ‘ok snowflake’.

When did younger people become ageist? Since day dot young people have sought to usurp their elders by insisting they know better; you know, like how some 2 years know better than everyone else. And older people, like the suffering parents of painful 2yos, seek to quietly tolerate it as something that young adults do; in the height of youthful enthusiasm, arrogance and naivety.

However through my work I noticed ageism going in to overdrive about 10 years ago. The early 20-somethings I knew were extra scornful and dismissive of almost everyone and anything related to those over age over 30. If something didn’t happen in their lifetime they didn’t want to know. It struck me as narcissistic. I noticed ageism go into super-overdrive about 3 years ago with the rise of mean phrases like “OK boomer”, amongst so-called “progressives” in online forums. They promote the ageist bigotry that will soon bite them.

It seems the multi-billionaires and their minions, who’ve screwed the younger generations with their policies, have succeeded at getting them to blame it on their parents and grandparents; as if they had some superpowers against the political system but chose not to use them.

Gen Y and Gen Z will soon face the bigoted wrath of the generations who come up after them. Those younger people will find things to criticise and apply a set of mean names to Gen Y and Gen Z people. Good luck with it!

“When did younger people become ageist?”

Not all of us were like that. I wasn’t. I accepted people as they were. True, I mainly mixed with my age group. That happens. We are corralled right through school in our age group for instance. However, I didn’t even think to dismiss someone’s viewpoint just because they were older.

In my maybe thirties I was on an interview committee (the token female). I was the one whose first choice was the 60 year old guy for the job. I thought most qualified, looks fit (not overweight) and healthy enough to handle the job, as the job required a certain amount of fitness. You needed to be able to climb up on things and carry heavy equipment. The other two older people chose a much younger guy and I was outvoted. So not all youngish people dismiss older people. Not all of us were prejudiced and ageist.

HiddenDragon7:29 pm 04 Aug 22

“But any critical thinker knows that blaming a generation of people who all navigated their own challenges and inequalities in their life for the way that our capitalist system of wealth distribution has let us down is foolish. “

Exactly – Baby Boomer, Gen-X, Millennial etc. are low-rent products of marketing and pop sociology/psychology which, aside from the many dishonest generalisations they embody, rest on the idiot assumption that a “generation” lasts 15 – 20 years (at most) – something which has not been true in the West for centuries.

They are also excellent tools for stirring up inter-generational resentment by elites who don’t want the proles turning their attention to what the elites are getting away with – so much better that young people should be shaking their angry fists at older people with a quarter acre block than at the people with mansions, private jets and super yachts (or at those who are doing very, very nicely as courtiers of the elites).

Spot on. Younguns and oldies have fallen for the “divide and conquer” tricks – to make the rabble squabble – and even worse, many of them look up with admiration at the multi-billionaire oligarchs who foster the squabbles.

Rather ironic really – the younger generations demanding that they be given respect for their sense of entitlement and the older generations pushing back. This is especially so when it is demanded that we respect the first nations culture – where elders were given an enormous amount of respect – did we learn anything?

“The Baby Boomers should not expect future generations to pay for their current benefits. Harvard professor, Niall Ferguson, describes the traditional intergenerational compact as our most important social contract and one that is being broken in Western economies.”

The post-war baby boom of 1945-65 produced the biggest and richest generation in British history. David Willetts discusses how these boomers have attained this position at the expense of younger generations.

I loathe this sort of grievance peddling.

I think it’s funny that presenting factual information about intergenerational wealth transfers and the deliberately one sided policy changes that have been made over recent decades is considered to be “grievance peddling”

And who paid for the post 1965’ers eductaion, health care etc? Intergenerational transfers go both ways and the level of support given to chilkdren these days is much greater than it was in mine.

OK, mea culpa, chewy14 is right. The YouTube video is worth watching is not a polemic but an analysis. Willetts expressly states (around 36-37 min) that his intention is not to divide the generations but to propose ways of avoiding conflict over the wealth, fiscal, superannuation pension and concession issues he identifies, and he does that.

The clear difference being the demographics at play with a significantly ageing population who are living far longer lives. Which leads to far less workers expected to support a growing elderly cohort of previous generations. The burdens far worse today for younger generations than it has ever been in history.

And then when you consider that large parts of that older generation are already significantly far more wealthy than younger generations and have received ever increasing benefits due to structural policy and taxation changes, the clear disparity is immense.

Which is exactly why we should aim to minimise intergenerational wealth transfers because they are inequitable.

Capital Retro6:50 pm 02 Jan 23

The first baby boomers were born in 1946, not 1945.

To try to be serious, this is a good article and I agree with Zoya that respect is important. Some may remember our current Chief Minister’s comments a few years on planning and density in the Inner North, where he played rhetorical wedge politics between his (and my) own Gen X (apparently forward looking and in the right) and Baby Boomers (apparently self-interested and stuck in the past). What a load of rubbish. I thought that was, for him, an uncharacteristically divisive piece of politics. You can have fun playing with he stereotypes about different generations (I have) but in the end it’s just another kind of identity politics. No one can control when they were born.

Falling between these two colourful and entertaining generations (BBs and Millennials), you often feel quite nervous. You’re never quite sure whether they will go back to the glow of mutual admiration that existed 10 years ago, like an office romance, or resume hitting each other with handbags.

For as long as the aged (of which I am one) have acted like teenagers rather than taking on responsible roles in the community. This includes teaching the young to have respect to others – and not just the aged.

One point though. Why is the “community group that provides local neighbourhood support and advocacy as being full of ‘old people and retirees’?” Because they are the ones who volunteer. Same with a lot of community sport. If you don’t want these things dominated by us old buggers then put your hand up and do a bit.

I think the main point is that the community groups shouldn’t claim to represent the general views of the “community”, when their membership is drawn from such a narrow portion of the population.

It’s fine that they’re full of old people and retirees but they shouldn’t claim to be more than they are.

It’s the same in any organisation – it represents the views of those who are there. Get involved if you want you views taken into account, whether by joining the community group, starting you own or presenting your views otherwise. Don’t just whinge about being unrepresented.

Can’t see anywhere I’ve whinged about being unrepresented?

And it’s convenient that you ignore my point.

Yes, these groups views represent those of who are there. The problem being that they generally claim to represent those who are not there also.

They believe that by claiming wider support than they really have, they can exert greater power than they would otherwise be able to.

Comment wasn’t directed at you, rather at people in general – one of the ambiguities of the English language is that “you” can be used in several ways.

I agree with your point about claiming to represent the absent. Something that is way too common in politics in particular and life in general. It pays to be skeptical of such claims.

“But there is a broadly understood value to age and experience and a shared acknowledgement of that.”

“We need to get past the stereotyping and ridiculing of age”

Well which one is it? We need to get rid of the stereotyping of age? Or is stereotyping only OK when you get to claim a positive attribute out of it?

People should not receive deference simply because they are older. Whilst experience and age can give you certain general advantages, it can also limit your ability to think freely.

If we treat people as individuals and not attempt to arbitrarily group them with our own preconceived notions, then we would all be better off.

Capital Retro8:24 am 04 Aug 22

What is a “critical thinker”?

There weren’t any of these people around when I was young – we had plenty of “clear thinkers” though and that is why the country stayed in good shape.

Seems it has lost its way lately.

> What is a “critical thinker”?
> There weren’t any of these people around when I was young


The limpid clarity of simplistic thought. Is that the one you meant?

Capital Retro11:27 am 04 Aug 22

So, what is a “critical thinker”, Einstein?

Capital Retro11:35 am 04 Aug 22

If you arrived at that comment after thinking critically your education has been wasted.

It is the fault of the media. You look at even this website and it allows the rhetoric.

It’s the fault of people questioning why they should default to respect someone because of their age.

It’s the fault of the people who default to not respect someone who is younger than them.

But, it is nothing new. Shakespeare was taunting the elderly, and we were in turn taught that in school. If it’s good enough for the media to perpetuate the insults, if it is good enough for Shakespeare then it must be good enough for everyone else right?

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