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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Elder Discrimination

This story is nuts:
After walking the Great Wall of China and making plans for a trip to Russia, Shirley Greening-Jackson thought signing up for a new internet service would be a doddle.

But the young man behind the counter had other ideas. He said she was barred - because she was too old.

The 75-year-old would only be allowed to sign the forms for the Carphone Warehouse's TalkTalk phone and broadband package if she was accompanied by a younger member of her family who could explain the small print to her.

Mrs Greening-Jackson, who sits on the board of several charities, said: "I was absolutely furious. The young man said, 'Sorry, you're over 70. It's company policy. We don't sign anyone up who is over 70.'

"Later a young lady said company policy is that anyone over 70 might not understand the contract. She said, 'If you would be prepared to go to the shop in town and take a younger member of your family we might give you a contract.'

Nuts, but I guess it shouldn't be that surprising. It never ceases to amaze me when I observe the manner in which some treat the elderly. The worst offenders manage to treat their elders as if the elders' more advanced age somehow automatically brands them as disabled - while at the same time denying them the slightest modicum of respect they should be due by virtue of their years of life experience. I'm quite sure I'm not the only person who has witnessed an over-70 patron of a store being talked at by the store's employee in a ridiculously high decibel level - as if said senior citizen were either deaf, speaker of a foreign language, or perhaps a toddler. The lack of respect is distressing, but the way in which society's elderly - no matter how capable - are infantilized is just obnoxious.

I mean, this is 2006. Isn't the age 70 "the new 60"? I went skiing this past winter, and was fascinated by the fact that a notable number of the ski pros at the resort we visited were in their late 60's - and one or two even in their 70's. Apparently, a large group of seniors make the resort area their retirement home for the winter, but some weren't quite looking for the retirement community pace of living. I find it hard to envision the extremely fit senior citizen who yelled my terrified self down the black diamond ski trail being denied cable service because of her advanced age.

I mean, really.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because someone manages to reach old age, it doesn't mean that he is a nice person.

10:32 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

No one says that it does. But it also doesn't mean that they are either (a)completely incapable of reading a contract or (b)of negligible worth as human beings.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM, I totally agree. People treat elderly in a terrible way.

12:51 AM  
Blogger nikki said...

on the other hand, to play devil's advocate here, there are many instances where senior citizens really don't understand the fine print of a contract and sign anyway, then want to cancel or back out, saying afterwards that they didn't understand, or that they signed because of undue pressure from a zealous salesperson. there are also cases where the children of the seniors claim the same thing on behalf of their parents. it seems the company is trying to protect itself. chalk it up to a litigous society.

1:54 AM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

This stems from increased mobility and the breakdown of the traditional family. Many young people today (myself included) have not had that much exposure to the elderly. My father is a Holocaust survivor and my grandparents lived across the country. It's not only a matter of lack of courtesy.

2:14 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

In England, social services department of various boroughs send out internet and e-mailing instructors, free of charge, especially for the elders.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems to be a poor choice to use as anecdote to your general point. As someone above mentioned, companies develop policies such as this to prevent lawsuits and people trying to void contracts by claiming they never read or understood the contracts. While I might question the age chosen, if the company has been burned before, the policy is just good business sense (of course, I didnt check if it happened in America or not, b/c depending on the circumstances it might not be constitutionally permissible).

11:37 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

While I might question the age chosen, if the company has been burned before, the policy is just good business sense
There are plenty of middle-aged people and younger who are illiterate. To single out older people as not being capable of understanding a contract is not any better business sense than it would be to administer a standardized reading test to any potential customers before they sign a contract.

This seems to be a poor choice to use as anecdote to your general point.

In your opinion. I disagree. The anecdote is proving that setting an abritrary age where the mind supposedly becomes fuzzy is absurd - especially given the fact that illiteracy or the inability to decipher fine print is certainly not limited to the elderly population.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

And let's not even mention the fact that age discrimination is illegal in the U.S.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And let's not even mention the fact that age discrimination is illegal in the U.S.

Not in every context. Certainly in Housing, Jobs and other necassities. But optional services, unless regulated, might not be protected. Certainly, internet service which would fall under some FCC or FTC regulations might come under some protection. I do not condoen the actions of the company, but they might be totally legal.

10:21 PM  
Blogger thanbo said...

Well, at 85, Dad is pretty deef. You have to shout at his left ear to be understood - that's the one with the hearing aid, that works at all; the other ear doesn't work since a tumor (benign) killed his right auditory nerve. But if you can get through, there's nothing wrong with his comprehension, or sanity.

And he knows enough to know that he really doesn't want to bother learning how to use Photoshop at his age (he used to be quite the photographer, until the world went digital)

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should all do a google on Rabbi Yehudah Kravitz - he obviously is the most knowlegable kashruth authority in our town - his specialty at the OU was the MEAT INDUSTRY - not a meat store, not a meat distributor-- but the entire INDUSTRY

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