I would like to devote this blog against disablism specifically to be against disablism when it affects the elderly.
I confess a special interest here. I am approaching the sell-by date for a woman (age 60) and I have noticed that there is a particularly pervasive disablist ageist attitude which is found, to their shame, even amongst disabled people themselves.
This is the attitude that "oh it's only wear-and-tear. It's your age. It's only to be expected. You are not disabled as a young man or woman or a child is disabled: the quality of your life is of less importance because you are old. So put up with the pain, or the impaired senses, or the restricted mobility, and shut up about it. Do not expect any adjustments, let alone reasonable ones. Do not expect public money and research effort to be wasted on easing the effects of geriatric impairments. And above all, do not insult me by confusing
me with an old person, just because I am in a wheelchair or use a stick or a white cane or a hearing aid." It is the assumption that this confusion is an insult that saddens me. What does it say about the person's unconscious attitude to the seniors in his own family?
There's one thing that is for certain in this life, and that is, that we are all going to grow older. Some of us may not grow old, but that's another story. And as we sow, so shall we reap. Every jibe about useless old crumblies, every bit of tut-tuttery about them blocking beds (because their home adaptions haven't been done) and pavements (because their mobility is dependent on chairs and scooters), will come back a thousandfold, when it's our turn, because what we are doing is nurturing resentment against the old now.
In your own self-interest, if nothing else, do not refuse to make common cause with the old. You have in common with them your humanity, and the disadvantages that disability attracts in this society. Don't let ageism cloud that perception.
And I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to an unlikely contributor to the cause of disabled people - the late Benny Hill. Benny Hill had two long-standing relationships with disabled women, whom he would visit and treat as well as he could:
"paying for a chauffeur-driven car to bring them down to London, taking in lunch at the Savoy and an afternoon matinee at the theatre, or the cinema if there was a new James Bond film."
Any rich man could do that, but,
"He would visit restaurants in advance to check wheelchair access and establish whether the ladies' toilet could be reached without stairs."¹
How many able-bodied people let alone young men, would even think about those details, preserving his guests' dignity?
¹Mark Lewisohn: Funny Peculiar: The true story of Benny Hill, London, 2002