Who’s old is up to speculation

Hmmm, I wonder how old she is? Those words are spoken or thought about when someone looks at a person and immediately decided that the person is on the ‘older’ side.

I gave a talk today to my AmeriCorps group of folks who are all younger than my grandkids. Well, when I signed up, my age wasn’t a question because of affirmative action for employment and volunteer work in the government agency.

For my presentation, I asked several friends what they thought was old age? The answers ranged all over the place, with most of them philosophical.

So I had each member of my group read what my friends had said, and then asked them what their own answers would be.  Philosophical again.

It struck me very strange that no one who wrote what they thought mentioned the one item that might be a dead giveaway that the person is older.

I then told my group that I was surprised about one item no one mentioned, but I knew it would be the first idea out of the mouths of children. One member got it…it’s appearance.

I remember that I knew I was getting older when people started calling me ma’am instead of miss. One of my friends got her feelings hurt when she ordered coffee in the McDonald’s drive up window and when she went to pay she asked why the price was lower than usual. “Oh, that’s because I saw that you are a senior citizen.”

That was a blunt comment that ruined the image she had of herself.

The aim of the talk was to be certain the volunteer recruiters were doing good interviews and lining up senior volunteers with what they really want to do, and to use their skills, and to respect their ideas.

When I was interviewed, for the job I have, I wasn’t told that I would be spending the bulk of my time at the computer. Later when the person who interviewed me asked if her explanation of the job was accurate, I had to tell her that it was to some degree, but not the computer business. Her comment on that was, “oh, I just assumed you would know all that kind of computer work.” Well, no I didn’t and I do not like to spend 90% of my day that way.

One of my volunteers, a retired banker, declined an opportunity because it involved a meeting. “I have sat in enough meetings and I don’t want to do that anymore. I only want to do the social things.” That was an honest comment and so she is my social hostess for gallery openings or event where she will be among the participants, greeting and laughing with them.

So the lesson is to do a good interview if the volunteers appear to be older and put them in places where they will thrive.


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