The April 24 issue has an article (What I Learned) with a subtle, likely unconscious, bias. It involves the dance for influence that often plagues relations between parents and children. Those of us from an earlier generation remember a 1960s TV ad, the punch line for which was, “Please, mother, I’d rather do it myself.” No one liked the hovering mother directing her daughter in how to season the cooking. 

Parents, as they age, feel the same way when children try to take over. If the aging parents need help, they can ask for it. Still, there is a movement within geriatrics and gerontology to voice the frustration — even anger — that can develop when their parents resist controlling children. This form of ageism — bias toward older people — appears under headlines like “Caring for Our Parents,” or in PAW as “How To Help Your Aging Parents.”

One geriatrician even offers a “Helping Older Parents Boot Camp” that excludes old people. That exclusion may be well intentioned, but it’s ageist. Ageism is a growing form of bias that often goes unperceived, just as biases of the past were often unperceived by those who harbored the prejudice. 

It can be empowering to fulfill a wish common to children to reverse parental power. Still, well intentioned or not, treating legally competent parents like children is ageist. Perhaps PAW can balance the article with something more comprehensive that addresses the challenges of aging from the perspective of those who are living it. This may be one of the last frontiers of hidden intolerance in our society.

Jack Cumming ’58
Carlsbad, Calif.