A letter to Mr. and Mrs. Hallmark, C/O Hallmark Cards:
Thank you, Hallmark family, for providing greeting cards for all occasions through these many years. You have enabled and encouraged people of all ages to remember their loved ones with birthday and anniversary greetings. You have provided greeting cards to comfort the bereaved, encourage the newlyweds, welcome the new baby, and in general, to encourage people to reach out to friends and neighbors with thoughtful, meaningful, loving, and even clever and humorous ways. And for this we give you thanks!
However, I do have a very serious concern about the way you continue to portray people 50 years and older. As a matter of fact, I would even suggest that your company is one of the biggest industries that continue to view old age as negative and youth as positive. Your messages continue to be in denial about the process and blessings of aging. You portray aging as something that must be denied rather than a gift from the Lord to be celebrated.
May I strongly suggest that you change your mindset and attitude about aging and see aging as a blessing to celebrate rather than a burden to bear; to no longer see aging as a problem to fix or a disease to be cured, but rather as a powerful, rational, life-long process that connects all of us as one community of people – children, youth, adults, and older adults.
Let me hasten to encourage you to continue to share and use the gift of laughter, joy, and humor that is so evident in so many of your greeting cards. People of all ages need to laugh and “lighten up” more in this serious world of ours! The key is that you, and all of us, help people to laugh at themselves, rather than laugh at others who are different that we are. Help us to look in the mirror each morning and laugh out loud at what we see! Help us to take each other “less seriously” and take the Lord and His blessings to us very seriously. Remember that “aging is the only way to live”!
I like to laugh. I am Lutheran so I like to “make fun” of Lutherans. Why pick on the problems of the Methodists? Lutherans have enough problems of their own! I am 79 years old, so I like to laugh at the dumb things I do as an older person, rather than having someone else do it to me. Help us to laugh at ourselves before someone else does! Let the older laugh at themselves and not at the younger, and let the younger make fun of themselves, and not of the older.
What kind of message are we adults sending to younger people if we continue to portray them/us as forgetful, crippled, dependent, and always needing help? Sure, many of us are more dependent on others than we had been. Yes, some of us are even HARD OF HEARING! But that does not make us any lesser an individual, or of lesser value that the younger, Life is not over when a person “retires”! Perhaps we need to change the word “retire” to the word “re-position”, as older adults become even more important to serve as mentors, examples, forgivers, and friends of people of all ages as they continue to age gracefully by using their gifts.
Recently I spent some time in one of your lovely stores. The clerks probably thought I was “casing the joint” for a possible robbery, but I spent “hours” ready your birthday cards, especially as they related to older people. Here are some “good examples” of “bad examples” I found, which, to me, portrays aging as a negative journey, a frightful experience, a dead end, and something that should be shunned rather something to celebrate and seen as a blessing. I recall the story of two little kids at a funeral looking at the casket of an 88 year old man. “What did he die from?”, one asked. The other said, “Don’t get too close to him. They say he died of old age!”
Here is a small sampling from the Hallmark shelves:
- “You couldn’t wait to get older. You can stop now!”
- “Aging is something we all must face – You – sooner. Me – later!”
- “Don’t worry. You’re not old. You’re just a young person that a lot has happened to.”
- “Remember when you used to laugh at people who were old? Now, what was so funny?”
- “Birthdays are like cocktails. The more you have the less you feel like keeping count.”
- (Picture of an elephant on the cover) – Inside it reads….” Feel Ir-elevant “? Welcome to the club!
- “Remember when you were young and handsome? “Me neither!”
- “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you – when you’re YOUNG-at-HEART. Sorry, Frank Sinatra, but I wouldn’t count on it at your age!”
Clever? Sure. Cute? I suppose. But let’s make sure we continue to laugh and celebrate WITH older people instead of laughing AT them!