Rude mil­len­ni­als? Feh. How about rude se­niors?


At­tend­ing a pub­lic event re­cently, I wit­nessed an elderly gentle­man, cane in hand, come across an um­brella that blocked his pas­sage ever so slightly. His re­sponse was to use his cane to whack the of­fend­ing ar­ti­cle two rows away.

Such be­hav­iour is symp­to­matic of an at­ti­tude I have wit­nessed all too of­ten when around mem­bers of my own gen­er­a­tion. Call it Ag­gres­sive Aged Syn­drome.

Of all the many de­mo­graphic groups with which I am as­so­ci­ated, my mem­ber­ship in the se­nior cit­i­zen cat­e­gory dis­turbs me most. Not that I re­gret ag­ing; faced with the al­ter­na­tive, it is a pru­dent choice. It is my fel­low se­niors who an­noy and em­bar­rass me.

While we should be an ex­am­ple of pro­pri­ety, many of us fail to model good cit­i­zen­ship. Mil­len­ni­als have a bad rep­u­ta­tion, but ob­ser­va­tion tells me that we se­niors are quicker to ex­er­cise pre­sumed en­ti­tle­ment.

Which age group jumps to mind if you pic­ture some­one tast­ing hand­fuls of grapes in the gro­cery aisle? While an ac­com­plished som­me­lier can judge wine with a sin­gle taste, the dis­cern­ing se­nior seems to need at least two hand­fuls to judge the grape. Even worse, the de­fault de­ci­sion for the gulp­ing se­niors seems to be that the pro­duce is not up to scratch. They walk away empty handed, but smil­ing.

Stay­ing in the gro­cery store, think of the last time you were in the “ex­press” line and found a bas­ket­ful of gro­ceries pre­ced­ing you and your three items. To whom did that bas­ket be­long? A se­nior, right? Point this out to the of­fender and you will quickly be in­structed on the wis­dom of mind­ing your own busi­ness.

Fast food restau­rants seem to have largely re­moved nap­kins and condi­ments from the self-serve ar­eas. This is not at­trib­ut­able to the usual sus­pects, like teens, but to freeload­ing se­niors. I can­not count the num­ber of times I have watched grey-headed se­niors pack their pock­ets with pa­per nap­kins and ex­tra cream, milk and su­gar. As they usu­ally leave in a re­cent-model ve­hi­cle, these thefts do not ap­pear mo­ti­vated by need. What ex­plains this but a sim­ple at­ti­tude of en­ti­tle­ment for hav­ing lived long?

And don’t get me started about driv­ing. There again, I am as­ton­ished by the self­ish­ness se­niors ex­hibit. Many of them just shouldn’t be be­hind the wheel any longer. Pre­sum­ably they would be first to ad­mon­ish a younger driver, quite cor­rectly, for dis­tracted driv­ing, but they refuse to aban­don the car when they are no longer safe on the road. The fre­quency with which one hears of mid­dle-aged chil­dren telling their par­ents they should no longer drive ex­hibits the self­ish phi­los­o­phy of my gen­er­a­tion. They know they are not suf­fi­ciently alert, but per­se­vere be­cause it is con­ve­nient. It seems their free­dom is more im­por­tant to them than oth­ers’ safety.

This en­ti­tle­ment some­times spills into per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions. Too of­ten the de­fault re­sponse to a mis­un­der­stand­ing with wait staff or front-line ser­vice per­son­nel is ver­bal ag­gres­sion. Per­haps the mis­un­der­stand­ings are more fre­quent now, as we do not ex­press our­selves or our needs as clearly as we once did. Our frus­tra­tion, in this case with our­selves, does not grant any right to treat oth­ers dis­re­spect­fully.

It seems that the re­stric­tions of ag­ing — more aches, more chronic ill­ness, more lim­i­ta­tions — have em­bit­tered many. To be em­bit­tered is to ig­nore the ex­treme luck of liv­ing in an era of longer life ex­pectancy. Op­posed to the down­sides are the ad­van­tages of see­ing even more mar­vel­lous in­ven­tions, see­ing grand­chil­dren ma­ture, plan­ning new ex­pe­ri­ences, tak­ing up hob­bies or learn­ing dif­fer­ent things.

Se­niors, let us as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity of calling out those of our gen­er­a­tion who be­lieve age has be­stowed spe­cial priv­i­leges on them. Ron­ald Macfar­lane is a re­tired school prin­ci­pal.

He lives in Château­guay, Que.

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