DARE TO ASK: We're old, so you must do what we say
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do older people think they can use their age to get what they want from a
Patrick, 15, St. Charles, Ill.
Because they can.
Pat H., 21, Forestdale, R.I.
They use their age as an advantage because they are cranky. When arthritis
sets in, it gets pretty hard not to be.
Mark, 54, Destin
Older people make decisions based on what they think will be best - not just
to get things out of kids. Adults have given you food, clothing and shelter all
your life. The least you could do is help them out once in a while without
totally complaining about it.
John, 20, Bakersfield, Calif.
It's because they know they are older and can pull stuff on kids. You know
the saying goes, "Kids should obey their elders." That's a load of crap, and
older people use it to get what they want.
Marisa, 15, Illinois
After years giving of ourselves, our time and our money to the younger
generation as well as our elder generation, there is an expectancy that as we
age, it is time for receiving. Unfortunately, the younger generation has no
appreciation for the sacrifices made for them. They feel nothing is owed and
nothing should be done unless something is in it for themselves. What a sad
thing for us, them and their children, who will never learn the enjoyment of
helping for the sake of helping.
Patricia, 63, Slidell, La.
Old people want their props, just like young people, says Eric Kingson, a
Syracuse University professor of social work who studies intergenerational
"For most people who have moved through life, it's not unreasonable to expect
some respect. But they can't try to control a child just by saying 'I'm older.'
They might say 'I have some experience ...'?"
The good news is that there is, in fact, something in it for younger people
when they - ahem - defer to an elder, he said: Holding a door or giving up a
seat means they're learning good manners and to respect others and themselves.
Seniors don't get a free pass. They should give back to society as long as
they're able, he said.
Another expert, Nicholas Cummings, e-mailed some personal observations. (We
don't often get to quote an icon of the modern psychology movement who's served
on presidential commissions. Plus, he's 82, so we're being very respectful.)
"We have all seen the occasional male curmudgeon, and the legendary
cantankerous old lady. But most seniors hurt in silence under all situations in
which they don't seem to count, and the fact is that most younger persons look
right through them as if the senior is invisible . . . Time and time again I see
young people sitting in [bus] seats while frail elderly are standing. There is
very seldom an attempt to relinquish the seat, and I have never seen a senior
complain about it."
Why? Because he said so.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.