When an elderly family member makes an inappropriate comment or racist remark, some will disregard it “because they come from a different time.”
What is considered culturally insensitive and politically correct now perhaps wasn’t 50 or 60 years ago and sometimes we just shake our heads and let it slide.
In a new report from Business Insider Australia, several psychologists weighed in on why the elderly make culturally insensitive remarks and found that one major motivation behind it is the insecurities and fear that come with aging.
As people age, they begin to feel more isolated and directing fear and anger toward a group of people can help assuage those fears. Bias can also bring people together and provide a sense of identity.
“The theory is when you think of death it creates a fear, and one way of reacting to that anxiety is to cling to identity, to try and gain a sense of belonging, or even a sense of protection,” Steve Taylor, a psychologist at Leeds Beckett University, told Business Insider. “There’s just a general feeling of anxiety in the air that creates this need for identity and belonging, and this need to demonize other groups.”
There are also other factors at work including deterioration and shrinking in the brain that can cause uncensored speech.
One thing that the the psychologists in the piece made clear was that growing up “in a different time” was more of an excuse than anything else.
“The fact that just because somebody was born in an era that was less tolerant or there was more prejudice explicitly, doesn’t mean that they are set in their ways,” said Abrams. “It’s not always the case that if you’re an older person you’re doomed and you’re not going to change. Especially as we progress in society and become less ignorant. Well, most of us.”