Updated: Nov 4, 2019
Late last week, I saw a news story about a group of “young people” who were offended by the color red and decided to boycott a certain store because they sold shirts in this color. Ridiculous, insane and outrageous, but… welcome to the land of the perpetually whiny and offended. This is the “woke culture”, a term meaning “perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice”, or so they claim to be aware.
Those in the “woke culture” are offended by words, pictures, statues, advertisements, colors, you name it, they are offended. Although the start of this movement had good intentions, it has morphed into something where finding something not to be offended by is a rarity. But this blog is about the hypocrisy of the “woke culture”, in particular, how one group of people can be the target of jokes, crime, and abuse with nary a word from the woke warriors. That group is seniors and for those who are "woke", they are snoring loudly when it comes to them.
On Saturday afternoon, I was reading a book when a commercial caught my attention on television. It was a game for children, ages four and up, called “Greedy Granny”. Manufactured by Goliath, it promises fun for “kids of all ages”. Now let’s look at the Walmart website description of Greedy Granny:
Greedy Granny from Goliath is a fun game. Greedy Granny loves treats, and she wants to keep them all for herself! When Granny falls asleep, it’s time to make your move. On your turn, swipe a treat from her tray, but be careful. One wrong move can wake Granny up and send her chompers soaring!
Spin the treat wheel to choose which treat to swipe from Greedy Granny. Steal the treat and press the button on Greedy Granny’s chair to see if you got away with it. If you aren’t sneaky enough, Greedy Granny’s teeth will fly out, which means you lose the game.
So let’s dissect this game a little bit. The name is “Greedy Granny”, should we imply by this that all old people are greedy? But that's not the worst of it, what follows is absolutely disgraceful.
“When Granny falls asleep, it’s time to make your move…swipe a treat from her tray.” So here, we are giving the ok to steal from a senior, it’s a game and we should find it funny, right? But, is it setting the stage for future exploitation?
This is followed by, “steal the treat and see if you can get away with it…if you aren’t sneaky enough, Greedy Granny’s teeth will fly out.” Again, teaching our kids to steal from the elderly and be sneaky, but if you're caught and you startle the old lady, her teeth will fly out. Hilarious.
A game that teaches old people are greedy, it’s fun to steal what they possess, and they have disabilities that we can laugh at especially if we scare the hell out of them.
OK, I understand what I said earlier about the “woke culture” and they not finding humor in things, but this is the hypocrisy of their selective outrage. Could you imagine putting any other “protected group” in a similar position, making fun of stereotypes while abusing them? If that were the case, we would see calls of boycotting stores, riots in the streets and of course, the old reliable publicity-seeking hustlers of all things trouble (and of course, green) showing up on the evening news.
But this is about seniors, so we hear nothing.
The marketing of this game is for adults who will buy this for their children. Will they see what I see? Apparently not, one of the reviews said:
“My daughter got this and a few other games for her 4th birthday and she absolutely loves it we have such a good time playing it. It's easy to learn and fun to play and we can't help but giggle every time Granny's teeth come flying out her mouth. Definitely a good one for the kiddos.”
Wonderful words from a "woke" mother. But an interesting thing with this group, a plethora of research indicates that those in the "woke" culture have fluid values, and their beliefs are determined by friends and social media. Bottom line, very few have any real core beliefs. And remember, those who stand for nothing fall for anything.
You might say, “come on, this is only a game”. Well, just how is elder abuse defined? According to the Department of Justice, the term generally refers to any physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older person either within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability.
So in this game, is Granny being targeted because of her age, her lack of cognitive awareness and selfishness? She falls asleep because she trusts those around her and what happens? She has her property stolen. That appears to be the goal of the game, doesn’t it?
In this country, elder abuse has not been a priority and to that point, there has never been a nationwide study of the prevalence of this activity. In fact, researchers who are just now designing studies state that only about one in 24 cases are reported. There are multiple reasons for this including seniors not knowing how to file a report or incapable of asking for help, some believe that elder abuse is a family matter and not a criminal issue, others are ashamed or embarrassed, and many fear being removed from the family home and placed in a nursing home.
This is a problem that will not go away as baby boomers are aging rapidly and the number of individuals age 65 and older will more than double by 2050 and will account for over 20% of our population.
The game itself sets up to demean “Granny” as being greedy, on some level dehumanizing her and making it easy to steal from her and laugh at her misfortune. On the front of the box is the term “will you risk it for a biscuit”, equate a senior to being on the level of a teething child or perhaps even worst, a dog.
When we begin to dehumanizing people or groups of people, it becomes easy to subject them to some of the worst kinds of abuse. Here are some examples of elder abuse:
A Tewksbury, MA man accused of abusing an elderly woman who later died is facing elder abuse charges, officials say. An 85-year-old woman he was living with was having a heart attack. When officers arrived, they found the residence to be in disarray and found the victim living in unsanitary conditions. The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital, where medical staff determined she was malnourished and exhibiting signs of neglect — including large bedsore.
Seven months after Pelham, New Hampshire detectives said they found 89-year-old Harriet Kalogero bloodied, bruised and malnourished in a recliner, the elderly woman's daughter has been sentenced to at least year in jail for assaulting her mother.
A Texas couple is facing felony charges after a 70-year-old woman told authorities they kept her locked in a dog kennel and administered other forms of abuse over several months.
A Georgia sheriff was arrested on multiple charges including elder abuse for assaulting and choking a 75-year-old man, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
A 20-year-old man faces attempted murder charges after Pinellas deputies say he tried to choke out a 75-year-old woman with a metal dog leash.
These stories are horrifying and sadly, there are certainly many more that we are not aware of. But why is this happening? Well, the answers are certainly varied and there is no single cause.
Yet, in many nations around the world, old people are held in high esteem – and even revered. In this country, there was a time when grey hair was a sign of wisdom, recognizing that the person has lived long enough to possess a high level of understanding of life and it’s pitfalls. But that has changed.
Watch the video below and see a real grandmother being abused. Nothing funny about this.
Today, the perception exists that old people are washed up and in many cases, a burden. Youth is now valued and held in esteem over our seniors. Today, young people take their social and political cues not from seniors but from other young people – those not too far removed from high school, or as my own grandmother used to say, “those who think they have all the answers but don’t even know the questions yet.”
Wisdom today, at least among the “woke”, depends more on how far you can throw a football, dunk a basketball, or put on make-up to develop a persona. Everyone wants to be a star on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram. But remember one thing, when everyone is a star, no one is a star. Then where do we turn?
And before you dismiss the value in dehumanizing people thereby making it easier to abuse them without developing a guilty conscious, look at the psychology of war. In multiple studies, drawing pictures of the enemy and presenting them as less then human made it easier to kill them and not suffer the pains and guilt of taking another life.
During World War II, American propaganda fixated on the dehumanized depiction of the Japanese, presenting them as monkeys and gorillas. The Japanese also used similar posters to depict Americans, presenting them as demonic and devil-like. The reason? It is much easier to kill a big hairy white mongrel or vine-swinging, gun-wielding monkey or a demonic-looking devil than it is to kill another human being. It made the enemy less than human.
And when it came to depicting our European foes, they were much closer to us ethnically so different methods were used, often depicting them as greedy, tortuous, criminal and downright evil. Again, killing evil was different than killing a human.
Certainly, this is not to say that such overt advertising is used to depict today’s seniors, however, advertising does take a more subtle and disturbing approach to aging, allowing a game like “Greedy Granny” to be accepted and laughed at. Remember, before a game like this is released, it goes through rigorous testing, polling and research groups. So many eyes saw this and found it acceptable -- and even funny.
In research done by AARP, they found that ad imaging about professionals at work featured just about 13% of older people working despite the fact that our workforce contains more than 53 million workers over the age of 50. Instead, older people are depicted at home or in medical settings while younger people were more likely to be featured with co-workers.
They also found that images featuring seniors handling technology appeared in less than 5 percent of advertising even though a Pew Research study found that nearly 70 percent of people between the ages of 53 and 70 own and use a smartphone proficiently.
AARP’s chief communications and marketing officer stated that many ad agencies don’t handle campaigns that target older consumers and a disturbing trend is showing that ads featuring those 50 and above describe this group as being “basically dead” with older people being described as “selfish and out of touch”.
Boudreau went on to say, “Marketers reflect the culture and the conversation in our country and stereotypes about the 55-plus demographic were really limiting people’s sense of what they could do with this half of their lives.”
As stated earlier, negative attitudes about aging and the elderly have been shown to have significant consequences on the physical and mental health of seniors. As we become an older country, will we allow ourselves to be perceived as a burden on others or less valuable than the younger members of society? If so, we will see a significant rise in depression and social isolation.
Recent research shows that older people who hold negative views about their own aging do not recover well from illnesses and live, on average, nearly 8 years less than those with positive attitudes. It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So is this game the beginning of mass abuse of seniors? Of course not, but before we laugh off the message that games like “Greedy Granny” sends, ask yourself this question, "would we tolerate such a game about another group of people with disabilities, or of a different race, ethnicity or sexual orientation?"
I think we all know the answer to that.
Don Drake oversees Connelly Law's Community Education Programming. He is a retired licensed clinician in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with over three decades of experience working with older adults diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, substance abuse disorders, chronic homeless and mental illness. Prior to his retirement, he was the director of a unique treatment program for older adults with histories of mental illness, cognitive disabilities, and addiction at Shattuck Hospital in Boston. He was also a director at Steppingstone, Inc. in Fall River, Massachusetts where he was the clinical trainer, program and curriculum developer for the agency and oversaw treatment programming for older adults. He has over 40 years of human service and law enforcement experience and has worked as an administrator at programs in Boston, Hartford, Providence, and Philadelphia, helping to structure, hire and train staff in providing behavioral and addictions treatments for adolescents and adult clients. Drake also worked as a trainer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health presenting training on QPR, a suicide prevention curriculum for the general public, the Massachusetts Council for Problem Gambling and the Crisis Prevention Institute, an international training organization that specializes in the safe management of disruptive and assaultive behaviors. He is also a retired professional wrestler who is in the New England Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. Drake can be reached at Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. at firstname.lastname@example.org