Roarin' Against Generational and Cultural Backgrounds: Bridging the ageism divide, one stereotype at a time

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By Bette Dewing

For now, some short takes on cultural breakdowns and one breakthrough Rx you may not read elsewhere.

But first a correction from my last column: 19th Precinct officer Chris Helms, not officer Liam Lynch, warned the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association about a cyclist swooping down on pedestrians and stealing their iPhones.

NY1 News aired surveillance footage of one such thief. Long overdue are mandatory bicycle license plates so red light cameras can catch cyclists who routinely fracture this law of the land.

Hope springs not so eternal that civic and political leaders may acknowledge such commonsense notions. No one "up there" picked up on my urging that the able-bodied help those who are not get to civic meetings, as exemplified by Mary Ford escorting Loretta Ponticelli to the recent 19th Precinct Community Council meeting on traffic safety. Isn't that what community is all about, east side civic leaders Betty Wallerstein and Nick Viest?

We need to hear about community group lapses as well as those of the elected officials who honor someone for "blazing trails" for traffic safety and the rights of elderhood, then never bother to consult them.

Primarily, the loudest citizens and accredited experts are the ones who get consulted, and even the few who know the elder experience have little ageism awareness. So I handed out copies of my related columns at two separate events mostly attended by boomers and many post-boomers at the 2012 Age Boom Academy, sponsored in part by Columbia Journalism School.

Although not chosen this year as one of its 20 participating journalists, I was allowed to observe the "Why Family and Social Relationships Matter" session. These essential connections are often missing, said the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging's Dr. Karl Pillemer, due in part to age segregation.

Not unrelated was a brief news report: "Although Al Sharpton's mother died today, he is off to Florida to join the many protesting Trayvon Martin's tragic shooting death." But was he there for his mother during her ordeal with Alzheimer's (I call it brain failure)? Did he protest the government's relatively meager support of this most dreaded human disorder?

While The Age Boom Academy and State Sen. Liz Krueger's forum, "Who Will Take Care of Me?" were surely informative, they had me feeling that maybe I'd stayed too long at the fair. Doctors know when to die, said one Krueger handout. They resist even certain quite common procedures so they don't burden loved ones or society.

But I knew there was still more work to do when I heard Brian Lehrer's interview with Kate Stone Lombardi, author of The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Will Make Them Stronger. Mothers of sons, make this book a perennial best seller! And support your neighborhood bookstore, which must be preserved with vital connections between mothers and sons.

And because nobody else will, I must write a letter protesting the paper of record's 3/24 story "With a Poison Tongue, Putting a Smile on the Nation's Aging Faces." A wildly popular 61-year-old male comic in Japan makes the most demeaning jokes about natural aging conditions, and even boomer-age women there pay big bucks to hear him.

Robert Nicholas worries that the new Betty White sitcom, Off Our Rockers, where the old play outrageous pranks on the young, may further divide generations and tell elders to laugh off their troubles often caused or worsened by an ageist and age-segregating culture. If so, old lion Bette is sure gonna roar! You too?

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