Try to picture it: A mob of women and men, say age 50-65, torching the American flag, demanding their rights. Unlikely.
But as baby boomers age -- along with those a bit older -- we're not going to be accepting the old stereotypes and discriminations any more. We see ourselves as adventurous, engaged, and alert. Not eating Jell-O in a daze in front of a TV. Not now or ever.
A new stage of elder activism is on the horizon, steadily effective, probably presented in a mild-mannered style. Remember the old organization, Gray Panthers? That's not exactly us -- panthers are now an endangered species, and many of us either color our hair or don't have any left. So that name wouldn't fit.
What might be on our firm -- but polite -- list of demands? Here's a start.
Don't address us as "dearie," "hon," or "sweetie" (outside of a love relationship). It can be easy to curb the use of dismissive, infantilizing words like these -- just start by answering back "O.K., sweetie" or whatever. Watch their faces.
Don't assume that we're deaf or addled. Some benighted people even address our children, instead of us, when we're together. The worst case is something like the waiter who says "What does he want to eat?" You might want to have your order ready.
Don't assume that we are retired from life. Many of us still work, and many others are engaged in vigorous volunteer work that is making society better for people of all ages. Asking us "What did you used to be?" or "Are you going to move to Florida?" will make you feel stupid when we reply, "Why, are you planning to retire soon?"
Don't try to make us invisible. One form of this is to look at one of us and quickly avert your eyes. Also avoid directing our cheerful group of elders to a table in the back. Give us one of those nice booths in the front.
Don't mock us as ridiculous, ugly, distorted and half-witted. Media seem to think it's fun to get laughs at our expense -- and by media I mean everything from the greeting card companies to the live comedy stages, YouTube, sitcoms and more. Remember, we're your advertisers' customers.
We acknowledge that we have to clean up our own act, too. We need to stop using our age as an excuse (unless it is practically a life and death situation). We should avoid joking references to senility, dementia or senior moments. They just give listeners an opening to agree. That's not an upside.
And we realize that our appearance, though a superficial matter, can be important. It's all too easy for younger people to snicker at older men in sandals with white socks or older women in purple T-shirts with slogans. Let's try to look presentable. However idiotic that sounds.
Jeannie Hanson, 65, is employed and is a member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Minnesota.