I recently read an article in The New Yorker about a relatively new trend in social media: millennials who claim to be living the “grandma” lifestyle. The problem is, the “grandma” lifestyle espoused by the younger generation is upsetting a lot of real-life grandmas and other older adults who take offense to the #grandma social media handle for a multitude of reasons.
First, let’s look at a couple of the typical “I’m living the #grandma life” type-posts. I just jumped over to Twitter and in less than five seconds found these gems under #grandma: “So this is what outside looks like after 8[PM]? #grandma (included is a photo of the night sky),” and, “This full moon consists of hiding out in my room, sipping bearable boxed wine to the sounds of Phil Collins. #grandma.”
Not surprisingly, many older adults–who are becoming involved in social media at unprecedented rates–are not happy to be characterized in such ways. Many have taken to the web to voice their frustration, and a good many have taken to old-fashioned protests as well, staging rallies in senior communities across the country to speak out against the offensive trend.
What they want is to dispel some of the persistent stereotypes surrounding old age and to reject any notion that they share something in common with twenty-somethings who sleep until the middle of the day and then spend the rest of their waking hours glued to time-wasters such as Netflix or whiling away time on social media with a bottle of cheap wine.
There is a disconnect in our society between the way older adults actually live and the way they’re portrayed in popular media. The image of older adults is “grayed” in so many aspects of pop culture–sitcoms, commercials, even political ads–that these stereotypes have become archetypes in the minds of some who see attributing something to being a ”grandma” as an amusing excuse for lackadaisical or antisocial behavior.
The vast majority of older adults are just as active–and in some cases more active–as their younger counterparts. They are not shut-ins with nothing to do but sip wine, watch TV and lay about in their pajamas. Every day more than ten thousand baby boomers–some of them parents to twenty-somethings of their own–turn 65.
Everybody just wants to get a fair shake, and in this case older adults want the world to recognize that life continues to be in full color for them. Besides, the world already has enough “grayed” misconceptions about older adults without the legions of Twitter and Facebook users rehashing (no pun intended) the “grandma” trope.
(For more on the “graying” of language and perceptions in the Senior Living Industry, check out the Forté Whitepaper I authored: Say It, Don’t Gray It.)