Are you guilty of microaggressions?


I have a friend, Alyce, who is an absolutely stunning woman. She also happens to be 80 years old. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t remark, after learning how old she is, “Wow, you look great for your age!” That statement says a lot about the person making it. I wonder what they would say if I asked them, “ What should an 80-year-old look like?” Would they answer that an 80-year-old should have lots of wrinkles? They should have gray hair? They should be stooped over, using a cane or wearing a hearing aid? The statement “Wow, you look great for your age” may be considered by some a compliment, but it is really a microaggression. The term microaggression refers to brief and commonplace slights and insults, intentional or unintentional, which can be expressed through words or behavior. Here are some other seemingly innocent statements that can be considered microaggressions when addressed to an older person: “You have an iPhone?” “You’re going to run the marathon?” ...

A parent’s best advice

girl with money

It’s a family legend. My two sisters and I were on a car trip with our mom and dad. I think we ranged in age from 6 to 10. We were driving home from an outing. It was 4 p.m. and Dad asked us, “Who wants to have an ice cream?” Of course the three of us squealed with delight as our dad drove to the parking lot of the Friendly’s Ice Cream Shoppe. Instead of stopping, he drove right by. When we cried in disbelief he told us, “You’d better get used to it—life isn’t always fair.” We were shocked and dumbfounded. It was years later that we learned our mother had leaned over to our dad and quietly told him we would not eat our dinner if we had an ice cream at 4 o’clock, vetoing his decision. So Dad drove on by and ad-libbed his wisdom. Later in life, we used our dad’s quote over and over when things did not turn out our way. It was a sage piece of advice, albeit a hard one to digest at the time. Around the same time, I was visiting my grandmother, my dad’s mom, in Plymouth, Mass. I...

The “overstuffed” sandwich generation


Three years ago, my sister Carla became an official member of the sandwich generation. The sandwich generation refers to people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children at the same time. It was around then that Carla and I and our other sister, Paula, had a discussion with my parents about moving closer to one of us. My dad’s medical condition had become quite challenging, and we three girls felt being hours away did not give my mom the support she needed in caring for my dad. So my parents moved back to New Hampshire, into a place only minutes away from Carla. I want to point out two things. I am forever grateful that my parents use logic, rather than emotions, to deal with a situation like this. Moving, we all agreed, was the right thing to do. And second, my sister Carla found the perfect home for my parents just five minutes away from her own. It was love at first sight for my parents. Before the move, I did my best to share with my sister what...