One of the entertaining things for me, as a Senior citizen to observe, is the reaction of younger people when they see the shock of white hair on my head and the wrinkles on my face.
I have found, all too often, younger people will see these physical trails and change the way they carry on a conversation and act when they are confronted by such an obviously older person.
As a recent retiree from Corporate America, this change, at first, was a nuisance.
As an Engineer and Manager of a team of Engineers who managed the investment in hi-tech production resources and facilities around the world for my company, including the expenditure of millions of dollars annually.
I have, without shame, always felt some pride in my relative intelligence and capabilities.
But, as happens to everyone, and I walked through life, learning and growing my knowledge, I also aged. My hair turned white, and those inevitable wrinkles accumulated on my face. And, as I aged, visibly, I found that people acted different around me, than they did in my youth.
Even though, in my job, I received a certain level of respect for my unique knowledge, the world was changing it’s view of Seniors. Instead of showing respect, it was becoming popular to ignore or even dismiss older people as insignificant in this new world of technology.
For instance, when I was at home I would change from a suit to casual clothing, and go into the local world for one reason or another, I would watch as people would actually talk to me in condescending tones.
For example, if another young person walked into a store, literally right in front of me, I usually saw that the customer and the sales person would invariably drop into a technical conversation filled with acronyms and abbreviations unique to that specific product line.
On the other hand, these same sales people would walk up to me and start their sales pitch off with more simplistic explanations of how a stereo operated, and how wonderful a specific model was. This was also occurring without their using any of the same technical terms that I had just heard them use with the younger person.
And, what would often infuriate me was the way they would often try to steer me to the more expensive products thinking that I wouldn’t know the difference.
This phenomenon wasn’t limited to retail sales. Once I realized what was going on, I saw that it was happening to myself, and my Senior peers, in business meetings, in Supermarkets, with Service personnel, literally throughout society.
It was as if, by having these physical attributes of aging, it was also a sign of reduced intelligence.
I would laugh to myself as I realized that it was as if my IQ had dropped significantly and I needed to be treated differently from the other, younger people in society.
I went through a period of controlled rage over this for a while, until I had another realization. These young people were the fools in society because they were making assumptions about myself and my Senior peers that were not true.
We were being Profiled!
And, once I accepted the fact that if I couldn’t change this “being Profiled” by so many people, I decided to use it to my advantage.
Now, I play dumb to the sales guy.
Initially I do this to waste his or her time by leading the conversation to the extreme, using their own words, and asking a litany of silly questions. And, eventually, as I see their frustration with me growing, I start to raise my mis-perceived knowledge level and I pick their initial statements and lies apart for a while.
It’s just a game, you see. I figure if they are going to play games with me, I can do the same with them.
In the business world, I was able to play the same game, pretending to be as stupid as my younger peers thought I was,which allowed me to use them and their weakness’ in judgement against them in those power-play situations that occur so often in the corporate.
How else should I treat those who make rash assumptions about others?
And, for you younger people out there; never assume a persons intelligence by their looks! Such assumptions can often be devastating to you in one way or another.
by Don Bobbitt, July 2013
Copyright Don Bobbitt, 2013, All Rights Reserved