Enough with the headlines about age! Not for the reason you think.

Age and age discrimination have never gotten more media coverage, especially in the wake of President Biden’ announcement that he’s running for re-election. If there’s anyone who should be delighted, it’s me. I’m in the age-and ageism business, after all.

Instead, it’s making me mad.

Many of the headlines are alarmist clickbait. (“Biden Would End His Second Term at 86. What Could That Mean for His Brain and Body?) Many of the stories, like that one, which ran the in the New York Times and another that ran in the Wall Street Journal, say little more than what I and countless geriatricians have to say: if you’ve seen one octogenarian, you’ve seen one octogenarian.

There are countless reasons to ignore age when it comes to choosing political candidates. More consequentially, these stories distract us from real issues that actually matter. Climate disasters. The economy. Racism. School shootings. Police brutality. Forced pregnancy. World War III. Why are obsess over age? It’s an ignorant, biased, costly smokescreen.

I have a policy of not following elections until the calendar year in which they take place. Most of the coverage up until then is side-show stuff (and it’s a real time-saver). If that’s too much to ask, how about holding the media accountable for the coverage we—and the real issues—deserve? There are so many more important things to think about.

6 thoughts on “Enough with the headlines about age! Not for the reason you think.

  1. Amen! We know that age and function are not the same thing. Who is a more effective legal representative: young Lauren Boebert or old Elizabeth Warren? And Nancy Pelosi is generally recognized as the most effective Speaker of the House in this century—much more effective than her younger successor. It’s time ageism in the press was relegated to the same dustbin as other forms of prejudice.

    1. Absolutely agree Stella! and a rather large dustbin needed!! One thing that is particularly irritating is the habit of media to portray womens’ ages after their name – this same ‘courtesy’ doesn’t seem to be given to men. Another is referring to many women over the age of 60 as ‘Grandmothers’!

  2. The political climate is ALL about age these days and it infuriates me.

    I received a fund raising e-mail from Elissa Slotkin, who is running for Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s seat.

    Copied and pasted from Ms. Slotkin’s e-mail asking for support: “I believe that we need a new generation of leaders that thinks differently, works harder, and never forgets that we are public servants.

    My response to that e-mail. And, of course I heard nothing back.:

    The ageism expressed here is crystal clear. I do support what you stand for and have followed your career closely, but this idea that people who are over whatever age is deemed unacceptable at the moment do not “work hard” and give no thought to the future is horrifically insulting (and inaccurate) to those of us who have worked hard our entire lives to make things better for others. Plus this statement has implied criticism of Debbie Stabenow, an extremely fine, hard-working Senator.

    “The Squad” has the same ageist outlook. I was big supporter of Rashida Tlaib but have done a 180 on her for this reason.

    It is NEVER OK to discriminate against anyone for something they cannot change, be it race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or age. Ageist rhetoric is disturbing to say the least.

    I know I am spitting in the wind with this response, but have to try anyway. Ageism is real, pervasive, and incredibly harmful. Please stop with the ageist rhetoric. Please.

  3. We are all on the same trajectory re getting older so I am always surprised that ageism is so entrenched. I suspect that people might have a ‘fear of ….’ as a way of unconsciously warding off getting older. Surprising more when we look at the older Presidents, Prime Ministers (e.g. Anthony Albanese – Australia) around the world and other luminaries – who are all over 50+. Wisdom is only one of their many assets.

    1. Yes, people fear “the other.” So as with racism, sexism, homophobia, many younger people (not all of course) fear getting older. Even older people don’t want to appear older. Passing much? Older people then become the other. Using the word “senior” when not accompanied by vice-president or advisor or referring to someone about to graduate from high school or college is othering and infantalizing. Worse yet “our seniors.” As in “we must take care of our seniors.” My friend Norman Chramoff says “as if we are spaniels!”

      How would people feel if we said “our Latinos” or “our women.” Yes, think about it.

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