In my experience, patronizing anyone isn’t a good idea. In fact, it’s harmful—to others, to yourself and to your relationships. It might seem otherwise: the etymology of “patronize” leads back to the kindly father/patron who has in mind only the best interest of others. Personal experience tells us otherwise: Patronizing behaviors are rooted in arrogance masked as kindness; their net effect is the denigration or diminishment of others—for the imagined benefit of the patronizing person.
Which causes me to wonder just why so many folks continue to patronize us old folks. What fractured emotion or logic could presume the capability of non-old persons to behave in a fatherly way towards people considerably older than them? How can they claim parent-like concern when they’re not our parents?
To help us all avoid any temptations to patronize older adults, I offer the following personal observations about how to modify these behaviors and perhaps their underlying attitudes:
• Unless I am demonstrably hard-of-hearing, keep your conversational voice at lower decibel levels.
• Don’t grin, guffaw or chortle at everything I say.
• Show me the depth of your spirit—your calling in life—and I’ll do the same.
• Help me discover what’s really admirable, exciting and unique about my qualities, experiences or capabilities.
• Give me good reasons and ample opportunities to admire you!
• Before speaking, listen to what’s really going on with me.
• Match your conversational style and vocabulary to mine.
• Let me do for myself what I’m still capable of doing.
• Disagree with me when I need correction.
• Honor what’s ordinary about me!
• Play with me; my spirit and self-concept enjoy being your equal.
Most of us older folks like to be appreciated honestly, beyond shallow perceptions or stereotypical assumptions. So thank you for NOT patronizing us!
Most likely we’ll return the favor…
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