Greeting Cards Insult

Photo by Jennifer Gentner on

Spring brings many birthdays in my life and I find myself doing the most difficult of tasks: shopping for greeting cards. Greeting cards are supposed to add to the celebration of a birthday or retirement but so often I find that they are backhanded compliments that leave a bad taste in my mouth. The jokes about being “past your best” at 30 or “over the hill” when you retire, leave the recipient feeling horrible about aging. Joking that the candles on your cake are a fire hazard or that you’re a fossil, make the birthday person cringe. I don’t want to give the message that aging is unpleasant and not really a celebration at all. It’s no wonder a relative recently mentioned her upcoming birthday in hushed tones hoping no one would realize it’s the big 7-0!

Photo by Teona Swift on

Age-stereotype birthday cards often “exaggerate the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, emphasize dramatic age-related physical changes, portray older adults as unattractive and cranky and suggest they lack sexual interest or have inappropriate sexual interest,” writes Sheri Levy in “Psychology Today.”*

We All Age

Sure, there are lots of things that happen to our bodies over the years and many of them aren’t much fun. Creating cards that point out stereotypes about ageing and giving them to someone on the anniversary of their birth, seems unnecessarily cruel and perpetuates prejudices that harm everyone. After all, we are all aging! 

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At a recent craft show, I was pleased to see that some independent card makers are trying to shift the focus away from ageist comments and poke fun at the everyday foibles of being human.**** It’s funny to quip about things that happen to folks regardless of age. Having cards that lift up the person with a funny positive message are also possible. Some of the newer trending cards celebrate the length or your friendship, or the fact that you remembered their birthday without Facebook to remind you.** If the card I pick, could be given to any adult regardless of their age, I know I have a winner.

I still have to sift through a lot of cards to find these winners, but I hope that with more awareness of the harm ageist cards do to all of us, the greeting card selection will improve.***

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Share some of the positive birthday card messages that you’ve given, seen or received below in the comments.



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