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by Grace Bernstengel
“When you’re an older person in a wheelchair or walking with a cane, people treat you differently. Sure, some might be quicker to open doors for you, but most of the behavioral reactions aren’t positive ones. The combination of being old and disabled causes what many refer to as “invisibility.”
“Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, explored this idea in a recent column through the lens of 82-year-old Nancy Root, a woman with post-polio syndrome Bruni met while giving a lecture on a cruise. Root taught Bruni how it felt to be seen as invisible because of her age and perceived ability.
“‘People looked over her, around her, through her. They withdrew,’ Bruni wrote.
An intersection of -Isms
“The concept of invisible older people — specifically older women — is not new. Novelist and screenwriter Ayelet Waldman discussed with us the invisibility of turning 50 as a woman.
“’I had no idea that as soon as I got to his age, to be a 50-year-old woman, the sexism gets completely complicated by this idea that not only are you incompetent as a woman, but you’re incompetent because you’ve reached your senescence! Or something,’ Waldman told Next Avenue. ‘I really do feel like they don’t even see you.’”
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