I've seen two newspaper references to elders recently. Of course we're all concerned about how older people are thought of and treated by society as a whole, but these cases seem to shift the emphasis straight back to our own behavior.
Of course you were shocked by the story of the 80-something white supremacist shooting up the Washington Holocaust Museum. And obviously the problem there was the man himself, not the way society views him. Anyone, regardless of age, who acts as he did, resulting in the death of an innocent person, deserves condemnation.
A more problematical story involved the 70-something woman who was stopped for a traffic violation, resisted the officer, and was felled by a taser gun. Of course it isn't nice to be treated that way, but what about the woman's actions? Apparently she refused to listen to instructions, and threatened to drive away.
I know that if I were stopped by a policeman, I would follow his directions faithfully. If he's wrong, I can fight the ticket in court or file a law suit. However, as many gun-weilding gang members have discovered, it's dangerous to fight back against an armed officer. What was that woman thinking?
I don't believe that old age is an excuse to defy the rules of society in dangerous situations. Peaceful protest can be all right, but these stories suggest that some elders are creating their own bad images. We elders may be special people who deserve care and compassion, but that doesn't excuse us from social responsibility. We don't want people to think that all or most old people are cranky, defiant, and/or dangerous.