“Old peeps” and I don’t mean the chicks

August 19, 2013
Take that, youngsters!

Take that, youngsters!

Last semester I sat in on a student project presentation. They identified their target market as “old peeps in retirement homes.”  Looking at their shiny, 20-year old faces, I just had to ask.

“How do you define old peeps? What ages in retirement homes?”

With all the certainty of youth, one of them responded that “old peeps in retirement homes arere 65 and older.”  The group then proceeded to talk about how tired these old peeps were, and that if the festival they imagined giving at the retirement home was too exhausting, these old peeps could simply go back to their rooms and rest.  My 65-year-old husband had just returned from a strenuous hour-long hike.

Once in a while I am brought up short by young people’s perception of their elders and because I teach college students, this happens more often now than it used to.

“You aren’t a senior citizen,” one of my favorite students said. “You are certainly not as old as my grandma.”  Her grandma is not even 60. I am…older.

I know I don’t exactly look or act my age, but it doesn’t change the fact, which is that by most calculations, I am a senior citizen.

“When we were young, 65 seemed ancient,” my husband reminded me a few months ago, when he applied for Medicare in anticipation of his 65th birthday.  I suppose he’s right, although I don’t have any memory of defining old when I was young.  Young people have always discounted their elders, it’s just part of our culture.  And yet, we Boomers are the very first generation to know that we’re likely to live a long time past traditional retirement age.  We don’t look old, we don’t feel old and we don’t act old.

A few months ago I posted a YouTube video of a young marketing person giving advice on how to market to the Baby Boom generation. His presentation depicted us as doddering oldsters who didn’t know anything about social media or technology. Of course, in his generation, computers have always existed, whereas in ours, well, ours actually invented the PC and the Mac. We came in on the ground floor and many of us–most of us probably–have kept up with the newest developments, including social media.

So when the young class presenter said “We were all born in the 1990s so we are far more expert at social media than other generations,” it pushed the button of another older person in the room.  While I asked them to define “old peeps,” she advised them to “know your audience,” obviously rankled by what she thought was his condescension to those older than he.

Being viewed as old seems to happen all of a sudden and it’s come as a bit of a shock. The executives in tech companies are no longer my peers. Clothing designers are way younger than I. Celebs and movie stars? I have no idea who some of these people are. The ones I do know seem to be dying off in greater numbers.

Old peeps crossing

Old peeps crossing

Aging is a real adjustment and one that I feel ill-prepared for. It’s not the physical limitations or even the visible signs that really get to me, although I’m not particularly pleased with the first appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. For years, I had few, if any, and I supposed it would always be that way.  I supposed wrong.

No, the biggest adjustment is in how our generation is viewed by the ones behind us.

Even though we gather together online and elsewhere to show our significance and consumer power, the fact is that our generation is fading out and younger people are taking the lead now.  While many traditional and native cultures respect elders, our own contemporary culture doesn’t know what to do with us, especially since we refuse to be marginalized. Maybe we’ll be the first generation to teach younger generations what living a vibrant and meaningful life in our senior years is all about. I hope so, anyway.

Getting older  happens to us all, if we’re lucky, and that’s how I think we should look at it.

It just doesn’t have to mean getting old.


18 comments on ““Old peeps” and I don’t mean the chicks
  1. Amy Blitchok says:

    Here is the big question and one that I deal with on a daily basis: what is the best way to refer to senior citizens? As someone who is younger and writes about issues that are important to seniors, it can feel strange to label a group that I am not a part of. Terms like senior, elderly and aging, all seem to evoke that “doddering” connotation that you mentioned. Yet cute phrases, like old peeps, seem even more condescending. Any thoughts or personal preferences?

    • admin says:

      I like Boomer generation, or you can say retirees, over 55 crowd, over 60, over 65….you can’t imagine how floored I was that you asked–thank you! As a cohort we aren’t exactly doddering, many aren’t retired, so maybe the context would drive your reference? 😉

      • Amy Blitchok says:

        Thanks for your input! It seems like a lot of options imply that the active boomer is the exception to the rule, but that doesn’t reflect the way people are living. My audience tends to be a little more general, but I will definitely be more conscious about honing in on a specific audience and adjusting my wording appropriately.

  2. While I have not experienced our age group (baby boomers) “fading out,” I have read comments from younger people about our lack of social media savvy. As you rightly say, we invented the computers the young pups think we can’t understand. I can proudly say that my 20 year old is impressed with my SM savvy.

    • admin says:

      I love that your son acknowledges your savvy! Well, we are certainly fading out of the spotlight in terms of corporate life, entertainment, etc. We are still not taken seriously by consumer companies because they still think “old peeps” are doddering.

  3. You are so right, of course (Ha!). People- young and older- who know me don’t consider me ‘old’, but recently I have been aware of the surprise (and dismissiveness) of meeting people IRL that were taken aback at my age. There is a certain group of bloggers (who will remain nameless) that I am a member of. When we met in Chicago for the first time, it was VERY evident that they were surprised/confused/uncomfortable at my place on the totem. Though I could easily discuss ‘Mommyhood’ and clearly remember what it was like to be in the early stages of my 31 year marriage- they fumbled with conversation around those topics or didn’t include me at all. Whateva. I find it so revealing that this younger generation, who touts a world view of inclusiveness and tolerance and openmindedness, still harbors the age-old prejudices of youth. The more things change… the more they stay the same perhaps?

  4. ElaineLK says:

    My pet peeve (well, one of them) is buying clothes. Everything in the stores is designed for 20-somethings with no hips or butts–short-short skirts, low-hanging jeans, tops made from a minimum of fabric. There is next to nothing for the older woman who wants to look stylish. I would dearly love it if someone actually started a store catering to the “over-50”, boomer, whatever-you-want-to-call-us women who are most certainly not dead yet and who still like to wear clothes that are good looking, fit well, and feel good.

  5. ‘We’, as in us baby boomers, need to educate people that we are living a hell of a lot longer than the previous generation! And those young whipper snappers need to realize we ain’t done yet!!!

  6. Debra Smith says:

    Carol, thank you–I LOVED this blog post (and have subscribed)!
    I’d like to address several things:
    The younger set seems to think computers and technology are a must. But some (those ‘old peeps’) have simply chosen to stick with what they know…not that they cannot learn it — they choose not to. I have a number of friends (both sides of my age) that have decided it’s not that important in their lives, and I understand that. Others have embraced it completely. For me, as my daughter (now 25) engaged with all of the different social media, I felt it important to keep abreast to keep her safe. And I just never left the scene — I have a Facebook account, along with several other social media sites and my website. There are times I grow tired of it and would love to just leave it behind, feeling way too ‘connected’…wishing I hadn’t grown dependent on it — like the younger set has. They cannot live without it.
    I think, someday, I may find that it is not that useful any more and will be able to finally become less ‘connected’…but not yet.
    I am “retired”, but find myself very busy as a writer, photographer and artist, traipsing all over creation…and loving every minute. Doddering, I’m not. I’ve traveled abroad with my daughter, with friends and even by myself, using all means of transport (train, plane, bus, even my own two feet). And loving every minute.
    I surprise my friends (ages 13-80+) when they discover my age (I turn 62 tomorrow–I am not bashful about that–I wear it with pride). It’s just fun to watch their reaction. And they are surprised to find out some of the things I’ve done: taken my car on the race track for the weekend and autocrossing after age 55 (maybe more of a surprise because I’m a woman), traveled abroad as a single woman, stayed at hostels (for heaven’s sake–why NOT?)…I’ve actually had more fun since I entered this ‘retirement’ phase of my life than any time prior!
    Age truly is mind over matter…I’ve seen 80+ year old people that have the vitality and sharp mentality of a 30 year old. And I’ve seen 40 year olds with the mentality and vitality of the world’s perception of an 80 year old. It’s amazing. Yes, there can be physical impairments that may slow us down, but if the vitality remains — watch out, world!
    I believe it would be prudent for the younger set to look around themselves — break out of their self-absorbed bubbles and see what these ‘old peeps’ are up to. So many are coming back to college to continue their education, pursuing their life dreams and taking on second careers (true, sometimes out of necessity). Then they need to visit some of the ‘homes’ they talk about — there are two types: for those still active (but choose to have less responsibility in the care and maintenance of their homes) and for those requiring various levels of assistance. They need to scope it out and get a reality check.

    Sorry I rambled so much ( am a writer, after all…) — but there is so much to say on this subject. Thanks for letting me bend your ear. And again, thank you for your post–I did share it on Facebook!

  7. Julie Phelps says:

    Really enjoyed this post topic. I just turned 67, but did not really feel as if I were among the “old people” until just a few years ago. That is when I began to repeatedly be addressed as M’am, had younger people offering to do things for me, giving up their seats for me, and more. Not all such bad stuff but did make me think “wow, they view me as OLD”. Wow.
    Then my new doctor came into the exam room where I was seated and waiting, picked up the chart, looked at me and then back at the chart, and said he thought I was not the person whose chart he was holding. He took me for a much younger person!
    As you might imagine, having a medical dude believe me to be younger was enough to put a spring in my step.
    So I plan to keep doing what I am doing, also taking advantage of every senior discount available!
    One thing that bugs me is arthritis issues.
    The other is my lurking suspicion that I may have an Internet addiction. Not willing at this point to give it up, though.

  8. Sheryl says:

    I agree, Carol! Sometimes it is shocking to realize my “real” age because I feel so much younger than that number…

  9. Susan Cooper says:

    Fabulous post…. Age is nothing but a number. I do not act, feel, look, or succumb to my number. I believe in living life for everything that it is. Each budding generation seems to discount that the previous generation helped pave the way for them.

  10. Angela Parson Myers says:

    As an “old peep” who actually preceded the Boomers, I deeply resent the perception that I must be unwilling to try new things, unable to learn, etc., because I’m older. I’ve slowed down some both mentally and physically, but am now enjoying my fifth or sixth career, this time as an author, can still give the kids a run for their intellectual money, and have no plans ever actually to retire. Fortunately my forty-something kids and teen and twenty-something grandkids seem to have a firm grasp of my unwillingness to “go gentle into that good night.”* (Rage on, baby!)

    *Dylan Thomas
    See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15377#sthash.GUaKrkMm.dpuf(Dylan Thomas)

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