How to speak to old folks

Published 8:43 pm Friday, January 14, 2011

Last week, it was heart check-up time. My Tallahassee cardiologist scheduled a stress test at one of the large medical centers. They said, “bring a book and a snack, and plan to be with us for about four hours.”

Well, there we were, myself and several other folks of similar age and predicament, in and out of the stress test area, all of us about the same age.

Then it happened, not once, but several times during the morning.

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One of the aides came to the lounge area where we waited and said they were ready for the gentleman sitting across from me. In that sing-songy little girl voice, the aide directed him where to go, then added the usual “okaaaaaaay?”

After they entered one of the treatment rooms, I said to the gentleman’s wife, “I’m sick and tired of younger people talking to us like we are kindergartners.”

Now, I never attended kindergarten, beginning my educational sojourn in the first grade. Nor did I attend day-care, or head start or Montessori. So I never had the opportunity for teachers of this age group to talk to me on a kindergarten level. Now as adults, perhaps we are recognizable as non-kindergartners, so we get “the treatment” from an age we never experienced.

The lady said she noticed it too, being talked to like a kindergartner, and she said she too was offended by it.


You’re dad-gummed right we are offended, and I have no problem politely saying to the sing-songy little girl professional person, “Please don’t talk to me like I am a kindergartner.”


Mostly, they don’t get it.

We both said how we have no problem today at our age telling people our true feelings.

I’ll be 75 this year, have white hair on my head, put up with squeaky joints, take 10,000 pills a day, while funny stuff keeps growing on my skin. But I still have all my faculties, work every day, keep up the yard, change the oil in the yard tractor, and busy myself with other odds and oddities.

Why is it that young people in semi-professional capacities talk down to us? If they think they are being sweet and friendly, they are not. It’s rude and condescending.

The lady said she too had taken on a new perspective of reacting with others. Not to be rude, and without fear of recrimination, she tells younger people or anybody in general in a pleasant way what she thinks. Younger people call us grouchy, and old buzzards, and probably additional graphic descriptions unmentionable in this space.

From this day forward, all of us oldsters shall now pledge to challenge vigorously as to how we are addressed.

Here’s another example. We were led into the dentist’s chair by this nice young lady assistant talking to me in her sing-songy little girl voice, telling me what we are going to do, following each directive with “Okaaaaaaaay?”

She then enters another examining room, where the patient really was a kindergartner. She talks to the child in the same manner she had just addressed me.

“ Okaaaaaaaaay?”

I said to her, “I’m an adult, and that is a child. Please talk to us according to our age.”

She didn’t get it.

Here’s another example of speaking up for your age.

We were in a restaurant last summer in north Georgia, and had just completed one of the worst dining experiences the world could ever endure. A 45-minute wait to be served, continued questions and unanswered responses on proper table service, then downright awful food. The owner then had the nerve to come to our table to ask if everything was OK.

“Our meal was totally unacceptable,” I politely told him.

He asked me, dad-gummit, and I told him. You want to know the truth from us old buzzards? We’ll tell you. If you are offended, then learn from it.

We don’t mean to be old buzzards. We want to be treated courteously and respectfully. We are not children. We have sustained 40 to 50 years of work, college educated or trained in life crafts or skills, engaged in many careers.

Upon retirement or passing a particular age milestone, our mental state does not go backwards.

You wish to talk to people as if they are 5-years-old? Go get a job in a day-care center.

Without being rude, there in your little-girl sing-songy voice, you can say “Okaaaaaaaay?” all day long.