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By: Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias
Loss of Youth: Shadow Banning the Elderly
I just read that millennials are now in their middle age. I know as a baby boomer I am classified as elderly. And with that I’ve been “shadow banned”. Of course, I am using the term shadow banning out of the context of social media, but I find it apropos.
I feel like a shadow to others, and consequently unseen. Banned from importance or attention. I suspect many can relate. I certainly don’t feel “elderly”. (I hate that word for anyone under 90!). I am fortunate that I am able to continue all the activities of my youth, and in some cases, more. I can swim a mile. I kayak. I dance. I work a full time and a part time job. Yet on paper, particularly in the medical community, I am old.
Primary Care Physicians are not quite so intent to order that blood work, that CAT scan, that MRI. PAP smears are no longer required?! Why not? Messages left at the doctor’s go unreturned. Maybe it’s not so much loss of youth, but loss of a particular age. Despite decades of experience, no one wants to hire a 70 year old.
Our society prizes youth. They stereotype and perceive younger people as enthusiastic, motivated, eager. I know many 70-ish people who are all those things. One of my students asked me if I ever heard of TikTok. Imagine! Of course, I know TikTok. I’m on TikTok!
A funny thing has been happening lately, though. I will see someone, and I recognize them. I am excited to approach them. Then I question myself. They look exactly as they did 50 years ago. How is that possible? It can’t be them. And it’s not. It’s a doppelgänger of them in their youth. I am no longer excited; but disappointed. When I see that same person at 70, I don’t recognize them. It’s the oddest thing. For that blink of an eye, I am transported back. Then transported forward – to reality.
Recently I had a rewarding experience. Prospective Client: (on the phone)” Hi, I was referred to you by my psychiatrist. I am in dire need of grief therapy, and he went through the Psychology Today Therapist Directory. You know, where the bio and pictures of therapists are provided…?”
Me: “Yes, I am listed there.”
Prospective Client: Well, my psychiatrist was swiping through several of the postings, muttering to himself, no not this one, nope, nada, and then he saw yours, and said “aha”. This is the one you should call! When I asked him what it was about you that made him stop and choose, he said, “All the others are too young. No life experiences. Probably counsel by the book. This woman is older. Lots of life experiences. Lots of understanding and experience!”
Me: Well, thank you for calling, I’m honored.
Client: Let’s make an appointment!
For that moment I did not feel shadow banned. My age was bailiwick!
Erin Go Bragh!
My upcoming personal appearances – c’mon out – I’d love to meet you…
Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.
She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI. For more information, go to: http://gracepointegrief.com/
For those of us with mischievous natures, there are indeed up-sides to being ghosted due to looking “old.” I worked on a college campus and was witness to the gradual vanishing of eye-contact as tech over-took the young. Then as my hair began greying I noticed students seemed increasingly likely to collide with me as we crossed paths. They weren’t being rude or anything — I was just just something that did not register (like wall paper or the air we were both breathing). I did not take offense, but in my effort to head-off collisions I did start getting a kick out of the effect of spouting my usual cheery ”Good afternoon!” in a tad more robust and happy-to-be-alive voice. It often startled the heck out of them as though I were indeed some unseen ghost that suddenly manifested in front of them. After their initial surprise, their better natures usually emerged, and for a brief second we glimpsed each other’s humanity.
I love your reply/comment! You reframed getting older in a far more positive light than I!. As RI was just voted “rudest” state in the nation!
Thank you for commenting. You are a lovely writer. Be Well!