“A Tablet So Simple, Even An Old Person Can Use It
Technology can be scary, with its buttons and beeps and boops.”
That’s the exact wording in a review by FastCompany of a new Claris product. (PLEASE NOTE: The writer, Zak Stone, is not responsible for the headline.) It’s in poor taste, obviously, but it’s worse than that. I don’t think they’d ever say, “A Tablet So Simple, Even a Woman Can Use it,” because that would sound sexist. Or “A Tablet So Simple, Even a (insert ethnic minority here) Can Use It,” because that would sound racist.
But it’s okay to stereotype people due to their age. Still.
Why FastCompany would choose to look so unsophisticated and dense is beyond me. I tried calling it to their attention, and the Yo, Is This Ageist blog talked about it, but nothing changed. I thought it would be fair to email the editor, Morgan Clendaniel, and tell him I planned to run this post with the above “stupid x 3” title, hoping he’d reconsider. Although our emails were courteous, he was unmoved. (Late add: three years later, in 2016, this image remains on FastCompany’s website). Here’s what he said.
You are, I think, unfairly putting into our mouths the most offensive option for why the tablet needs to be simple for seniors to use it. At no point do we say it’s stupidity, nor–emphatically–do we think it is…it was created for older consumers who are not so-called digital natives and who may be uncomfortable with the various bells and whistles–not to mention small type and ungainly interfaces–of the current crop of tablet computers and would like something more simple.
Fine, but Clendaniel misses the point:
The headline is ageist.
What is ageism? Here’s a very brief definition that cuts to the chase:
…Another common instance of ageism is in the case of older adults or senior citizens, when they are portrayed in the media as being feeble or weak-minded (from the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
Clendaniel didn’t seem to be able to comprehend, but he’s not alone. Negative stereotyping of older people is so common it’s not even noticed. Society seems oblivious. We’ve become quite knowledgeable about mistreatment of other protected groups, but not older folks. That should change, because ageism isn’t just stupid. It can lead to a waste of talent and resources from older people who can’t get hired and then have to go on the dole. That’s just one example. Ageism is discouraging, unfair, cruel, and it can be illegal. You’d think big, fast companies would know that.