Responding to the Pain and Reality of Ageism

By Rev. Dr. Bobbie McKay  •  September 14, 2023

It was summer, 2023, and life was good and the living was “easy”. And into that wonderful and special time came an invitation to my fourth grandchild’s wedding and a family party that would bring us all together to honor our extended family of parents and kids and grandparents and everyone connected to our family.

Family calendars carried the special wedding events. Excitement was in the air and everyone for miles around knew about “the celebration that was coming.”

I looked for a suitable outfit to wear while checking out shoes that might work for such an occasion. All plans moved into place until it was finally a time for counting days until our event! Plane tickets purchased; dress chosen; cab to the airport called; and suitcase packed!

The Messages

And then the unexpected message arrived! We learned that the young children in the family had not been invited to the ceremony. Reasons given? Too young; might get in the way; the bride and groom had decided that children would be a distraction from the ceremony: they wouldn’t understand or appreciate what was happening.

We could understand the reasons given--no problem. But then came the next set of restrictions: no grandparents allowed either! “NO” was a permanent answer: no…no…NO. That was unexpected, powerful and painful to hear.

NO grandparents!! We had known our grandson for over twenty-four years; we had loved him; diapered him; taken him on trips; wiped his tears; watched ALL his games; attended his piano recitals and school plays and we weren’t allowed to attend his wedding?? I thought surely they would make an exception for his grandmother--me! And the answer was “no exceptions”!

Preparing for The Big Day

My heart was broken. I sent a letter to the bridal couple to accept my “fate”. and then I spoke to a wise friend who said, “It’s their wedding! Be happy they’re getting married!” 

Another friend suggested the bridal couple might appreciate my accepting and understanding their decision and honoring their wishes. And the division between us began to evaporate.

On the day of the wedding, I prepared myself for the event and turned on the television at the appointed time for the ceremony to begin. But I had a book to read in case I was still unhappy.

When I awakened the next morning, I had slept through the entire wedding ceremony that unfolded in a peaceful night of letting go and opening my heart to the power and wisdom of my love.

The Lessons of Aging

No regrets; no disappointments but the knowledge that when the heart takes charge, it operates in a different way. It seeks the harmony of love, and the resolution of connection. And my heart had found a path of understanding that included the entire family.

The specter of “ageism”--that painful rejection of the elderly--was absorbed into the peaceful understanding and wisdom that aging offers to each of us in this special time of our lives. 

And my heart was the glue that held us together.


To learn more about ageism and what you can do to end it, join us either In Person or Online at the 2023 Abundant Aging Symposium with keynote speaker Dr. Tracey Gendron, author of Aging UnMasked: Exploring Age Bias and How to End It. For full details and to register, go to


For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Then spend some time with the following questions with your journal or a good friend. Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee. 


  1. Share a story about a time when you felt snubbed because of your age.
  2. How did you respond? What other viewpoint may have helped you to respond differently than you did?
  3. What does it feel like, inside yourself, when you feel discounted because of your age?
  4. What does it feel like when you are positively acknowledged for something that you did as an elder adult?

Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Bobbie McKay

Rev. Bobbie McKay, Ph.D., is a UCC minister, author and licensed psychologist. Rev. McKay cocreated the Spiritual Health Center, NFP, and conducted a research study on spiritual life in the United Church of Christ. Based on the findings of this study, Spiritual Life Teams were born, and the study has been extended to the Episcopal church, the Catholic church and the Reform Jewish Community in the greater Chicago area as well as to Islamic populations in New York, Illinois and Florida. Rev. McKay currently works as pastoral associate in Spiritual Life at Glenview Community Church in Glenview, Illinois.

View all articles by Rev. Dr. Bobbie McKay