Home Book Collections Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

via Ashia

A Plan For Pops

Older Adult’s Problem: Psychological impact of suddenly living with a permanent physical disability

Youth Savior Solution: A ramp.

The Moral: Older adults who develop physical disabilities are doomed to a life of despair without outsider help.

I’m getting picky on this one – only because I love this book soooo muuuch. Gay grampas! Multi/transracial family constellations! Nonbinary character who uses they/them pronouns! So lovely! And it’s all marred by a couple issues.

The first part of the book is gold – both Grampas are depicted as vibrant, interesting, and fun. They’ love their grandchild, Lou, but they don’t need Lou to entertain them. They have independent lives and taste. So sweet, and so nice.

But the dig is when one of the Grampas has a fall, and gains a permanen physically disability. Grampa is shook, which I get it – that’s a big life change to deal with. But the book wobbles a little toward disability as a life-ending flaw, which is pretty ableist.

From there, the gramps can obviously build a ramp themselves. But Lou does it for them, and that magically cheers up their depressed grampa. Which minimizes 1. What a big life change it is to go from abled to living with a disability, and how valid it is to need time to process that, and 2. The fact that grampas can come up with obvious logistical solutions on their own.

The ramp is a metaphor – I get it. A symbol of love and accommodations, and support. But because this book could swing either way, depending on the reader, it feels a little lazy. I will spell it out to my kids that grampa’s despair is about a life change, not because having a disability is a bad thing. I’ll also point out that obviously someone was going to build a ramp, and it’s the show of love and innovation that cheered grampa up, not the physical ramp.

But will casual readers?

So read this, enjoy it, and please be cautious to unpack the ableism and ageism kids will pick up if left to come to their own conclusions.

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3 observations

Adelaide Dupont February 6, 2020 - 1:21 PM

Intellectual humility – a great virtue I learnt late and I learnt hard.

It’s all about letting your self be vulnerable; trusting people know more than you do or at least different things that you do. And not blaming or shaming.

I didn’t really have a handle on humility until I was 28 and in the early 2010s on a site exploring feminism. I think intellectual humility recognizes that you’re in a community of equals that you had a hand in creating too.

And for a long time I thought it was only about appearing/sounding humble and not trying to make other people feel more stupid than they may have felt already.

As as the Eartquakes are realising it is also about experiencing pain and powerlessness and not covering for it.

And kids do start out intellectually humble. You can also just know a little more than them and fight knowledge poverty together and close gaps.

Yes, the ways we do this for and with kids are very often contrived and artificial.
sometimes there is a fear – or the kids experience the fear – what if I really am the smartest person in the room and I don’t know what to do? What if I can’t use this privilege well according to my values? What if my community is cutting me down.

Our elders experience these things too. Still!

And I liked the way you pointed out the ways in which post_truth is analogous to normal developmental experiences of five and seven year olds.

PAternalism/maternalism – and a lot of kids start to be parentified or take on parentified roles at this age. They see their parents’ capabilities decline/that the rents are less empowered in other spheres. And their empathy/sympathy develops.

We do need to find ways to be on the kids’ sides without encouraging paternalism or saviorism. Our seniors take on long and deep views.

Do the Eartquakes spend time with seniors in the neighbourhood?

Ashia February 6, 2020 - 1:55 PM

Lots of thoughts to noodle on! Thank you!

For us – the Earthquakes don’t spend time with _anyone_ in our neighborhood. Because of our disabilities, and our lack of local family or social support, we can’t even go to the grocery store. Their grandparents are too busy for us and don’t have time (or patience) to deal with the hyperactive earthquake. I gave up on leaving the house except for private meetings and picking kids up at the bus stop years ago – the cutting remarks and gasps and evil looks just wear me out. The social calculus is just too much, and I end up having meltdowns. These days, if we’re really in a good space, I can take _one_ kid to the library with me, or both kids to an outdoor event for kids, but only if we have both parents – also hard with both of us working overtime.

If it was more accessible, I’d start with attending intergenerational events at our local library – but those same events aren’t accessible for folks with social disabilities. It would be lovely if we had opportunities to interact with older adults who know and understand neuro disabilities, but alas – the median mortality for folks with our disability is 36. If they haven’t died yet, they’ve survived by becoming reclusive and hiding their disabilities.

Adelaide Dupont February 6, 2020 - 1:32 PM

And about being old and about being shitty – how being old is being used as code for being shitty.

One of the things I regret most int my writing is not promoting the circular economy – clothes and fast fashion are very easy to dismiss as being old.

Furniture is easier for me to represent as being emblatic of an era.

And the whole veteran and vintage circuit – for example, cars!

Then I think of J K Rowling and how she laughs at history. And all the historical fiction I have read/am reading.

And the 94-year-old Japanese woman whose children were captured in North Korea. WHy do I only pay attention to these awesome people when they are dead or dying?

It is ‘t about how we young and younger people can benefit from wisdom – it’s like a quarry if we think that way.

And all the 90+ year olds I have been privileged to live alongside. think too, how seniors are represented in rural and regional communities.


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