The Mortality Club

THE WAR OF THE AGES: The Old Phart and the Upstart

July 24, 2016

Tags: ageism, angry old man, rebel, upstart

The Old Phart refuses to give in or give up. He or she will stand his (her) ground and yell and scream if necessary to be heard over the din created by disinterested and disrespectful younger people who want the obstinate old trouble maker to simply get out of their way. The Old Phart has a thing or two to say to the younger members of the group whom he views not as legitimate heirs to the throne, but as Upstarts who have not earned the right to rule.

Even when the experiences and expertise of an elderly person are relevant to the challenges a younger person is facing, there can be conflict. This happens when the once influential old man or old woman who sat on top of the chain of command now has no direct reports and no legitimate authority. Too often, that old man or old woman holds onto the demeanor and directive communications style that was once appropriate. He or she intrudes and tells the younger people in his world what to do and how to do it. The interference is strongly resented.

The tension between the Old Phart and the Upstart gets worse if the old guy (gal) is clinging to a position that the younger person wants. Older people increasingly refuse to go quietly into the good, good night. Because of medical breakthroughs and technology, their life spans are longer and they are healthier. In ever greater numbers, they cling to their positions in government, in industry, in the community. They take up seats that the young want to fill. Feeling the ambitious young breathing down their neck like people waiting for a table in a trendy restaurant, they get stubborn and resist leaving, ordering another cup of coffee. The young get frustrated and angry. In response, the old get more stubborn and resentful. The War gets nastier.

In his book, The Five Ages of Man, Gerald Heard described what happens when senior experience the negation of their acomplishments and the perceived irrelevance of their expertise. On page 154, he describes a “new class of elders.”

“The damage that, today, the rebellious young can do to the community is great. It is smaller, though, than that harm that can and must be wrought by the growing mass of a new class of elders who have a greater sense of political power and a deeper selfishness because they have a more profound, far better founded hopelessness and fear toward a tomorrow that holds for them no promise, only negation.”

Consider this dynamic in the light of the greying of the U.S. Congress. In the early 1800s, the average Representative or Senator was in his mid-40s. Today, the average Senator is sixty two, and the average Representative is 57. The average age of a Supreme Court Justice is 69. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 years old and apparently has no plans to retire.

Selected Works

Psychology/Aging and Dying
In youth we are invincible. The world is forever: we are forever. But, sentient creatures that we are, time inevitably plays its part. Aging and illness shadow those early sensibilities until one day we feel the lurking presence of death itself. Fearful of our own dark thoughts, too often we keep such anxieties to ourselves. To deny our own mortality is a parlor game of sorts, played within our own heads and frequently played alone. Pamela Cuming will have none of it. In her latest book, The Hourglass, she throws back the parlor curtains and lets the light stream in. This is a powerful, objective, unflinching, and yet profoundly empathic work that explores the rewards of honest caring⎯the privilege and the pain⎯not only for one’s friends and family but also for one’s self. Drawing upon an uncanny intuitive understanding of human foible plus a broad knowledge of character development, honed from decades of consulting in the business world, this is a book filled with personal stories both engaging and instructive. In short, The Hourglass is a must read for all those who seek to live life to the full, from start to finish. ________________ Peter C. Whybrow MD, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Beavior at UCLA and award-winning author of The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived.
Fiction: Publication Date Nov 14, 2014
Set in New York City and Los Angeles between August 1999 and November 2001, The Stranger Box is the story of a mother and a daughter caught like two white dwarf stars in separate orbits, destined to collide. Though she does everything in her considerable power to insure the child never finds out who she is, the vain and self-obsessed Katherine Blair is unable to change the course of her destiny or evade Eden, the resourceful daughter whose pursuit is fueled by the desire for revenge and the determination to steal the family that has been denied her.
Widow’s Walk is a bold, brave, and candid admission of bereavement, weakness, and, ultimately, strength.
A strategic guide to organizational and personal effectiveness
Turf is a direct, and sometimes disturbing book about the use and abuse of power in organizations.

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