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Comment : Seniors Are 'Pushed Into the Backwater'

August 30, 1993|DOROTHY CROWLEY-CAVECCHE, Palos Verdes Estates

I dislike labels of any kind, but the label I dislike more than any other is senior citizen. Since I reached the age where that label applies to me, I have gradually moved away from thinking of myself as an individual and toward being enmeshed in a group. I have a feeling of being slowly and effectively pushed out of the mainstream of life into the backwater, where older people are allowed to watch the parade but not be an integral part of it. In most cases, 65 is way too young to abandon the work force and stop being a fully participating member of society. But really, what choice do older people have? Fighting the system is an exercise in futility.

For example, because we are still working, my husband and I felt it only fair that we pay for our own insurance. But we had no choice in the matter when, at age 65, we were unceremoniously dropped by our insurance company despite our excellent health record. We had to go on Medicare.

On the job, the pressure from below is intense. Older employees are told, covertly or directly, "You're taking a job away from someone who really needs it" and/or "It's our turn now; get out of our way." Ideally, a working team should consist of older people for their wisdom, the middle-aged for their stability and the young for their enthusiasm. But in our society that is not tolerated, in most instances.

On the personal side, it seems to be no different. Friends of mine are afraid to say "no" to an extravagant wedding they can ill afford for fear of alienating their child. Another friend dreads the phone calls she receives from her grown children, endlessly blaming her for all their problems. Another couple aren't included in holiday plans because they are considered "boring." Others fear doing something "undesirable" that will cut them off from contact with their grandchildren. These older people lived through World War II, the Korean War, the hippie years, Watergate and Vietnam; they sent the first rockets into space. What a waste of knowledge, competence and guidance when they are forced to maintain a low profile just to keep peace in the workplace and with their grown children.

No wonder there is an exodus of vital people in their 60s to retirement communities. It seems to be a fleeing from, not a going to, with joy. All the knowledge acquired in a lifetime is used in potlucks, golf and bingo instead of being directed out into the community where it is so sorely needed. Isn't it time for a re-evaluation?

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