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Greeting cards that joke about getting older: What readers are saying

Dear readers,

This week, the focus is on the emails I received in response to the column on ageism and birthday cards.

Here are some of our readers’ perspectives. I’ll follow with some of my own thoughts:

“Rarely am I driven to a column immediately but your column on ‘ageist’ birthday cards really pushed my buttons. Isn’t getting old in this society difficult enough with your now telling us that we can’t laugh at ourselves? The most insulting part of your article is that although we apparently are wise, venerable, faithful friends, fun and spectacular, we are not allowed to share a joke with like-minded older friends of both sexes on our birthdays and still have loads of old-person self-esteem when we are done laughing.”

“Save the flowers for my funeral. I much prefer a funny greeting card. Sock it to me. Mock my memory, laugh at my looks, giggle at my gait – I love it. Laughter is still the best medicine and a sense of humor is one of the secrets to longevity, or so they tell me. At 83 I am well acquainted with the indignities that accompany aging. Might as well laugh.”

“What a crock. What’s next, Easter eggs and Halloween? I am 74 and find the cards very funny. Getting older is no fun and we need all of the laughs we can get.”

“The negative comments about greeting cards with messages poking fun at old age misses the mark. Getting older (I am 84) may be a blessing most of the time, but also a terrible inconvenience. So, do not ‘cancel’ others’ enjoyment and hilarity. My 72-year-old sister and I seek the ones that are appropriate to sagging boobies, joints that protest too much and digestive disasters. It’s none of your business if we like the droll cartoon and sayings.”

“While I agree that belittling someone’s age or discriminating against someone older is wrong, I’d respectfully disagree with you on greeting cards. Greeting cards are given as a gesture of love or friendship, not as weapons. So, cards gently joking about the shared realities of aging are an opportunity for friendly bonding rather than for harmful discrimination.”

Some other perspectives…

“My energetic, intelligent, charming and handsome husband received old fart cards from each of his children on his 60th birthday. I know they didn’t mean any harm, but after reading them he looked at me and said, “Am I kidding myself, am I really just a worthless old man?” He passed many years ago, but I still remember the hurt look in his eyes…”

“I enjoyed reading today’s column as always. I even see what I perceive as age bias in of all places, our church. It’s customary to say hi, but I notice those in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s walk by as if we were invisible…”

Here’s my take on the matter.

The issue of ageism and birthday cards raises awareness about age stereotypes. The birthday cards from Changing the Narrative Colorado is part of their mission to increase understanding of ageism and to shift how Coloradans think about aging. One of their many initiatives is to provide a choice in the type of birthday greetings sent to an older people; their recommended choice is to send a card with a positive image of aging.

In most cases, the older person to whom we are sending a card is someone we know quite well. Consequently, the message likely will be received in the spirit it was sent. Again, this is about choices and choices should be honored.

I also believe it’s important not to take ourselves too seriously all of the time. Humor plays an important role in our lives as long as it’s at no one’s expense. And here’s the rub. Changing the Narrative Colorado presents a case that it is at the expense of older people.

If nothing else, the topic of ageism and birthday cards draws attention to how older people are portrayed and the messages conveyed. As a result of our conversation, we may become more aware of older people in the media that includes movies, advertisements, digital and print news as well as the workplace. And then, what are willing to do about it?

So, thank you dear readers for your candor. This is an important conversation. Keep your sense of humor, raise your awareness of ageism and indeed have a good laugh. And of course, stay safe and well.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging, employment and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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