Addressing the “Good for Your Age” Compliment

“You’re smart, for being a young person.”

“You look good for your age.”

“You are athletic for your age.”

The “good for your age” compliments seem nice and flattering at first. But actually, these “compliments” are a backhanded knock on people your age.

For people who think that I’m being too sensitive, consider the implications of the compliments I expressed at the beginning of my piece:

  • “You’re smart, for being such a young person.” Implication: Young people are usually not that smart.
  • “You look good for your age.” Implication: People your age usually don’t look “good” (whatever good is).
  • “You are athletic for your age.” Implication: People your age aren’t athletic. By the way, I’ve known of people over the age of 100 to run marathons, so people can be athletic at any age.[1]

In summary, these compliments of being “good for your age” are indirectly critical of others of a particular age in ways that are ageist. It’s ageist because people (or groups of people) are judged solely on the basis of the age they are or the age they look.

Instead of making such ageist comments, we can just avoid the age-based compliments. Instead of saying that someone is smart for their age, say that the person is smart. Instead of saying someone looks good for their age, say that the person looks good. Instead of saying that someone is athletic for their age, say that someone is athletic. Ultimately, your traits need not be based on age because, really, age is just a number.

Please note that I will not publish a post next Monday because it will be Presidents’ Day.


[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/01/01/568665002/at-age-101-shes-a-world-champ-runner

11 Replies to “Addressing the “Good for Your Age” Compliment”

  1. Hi Brendan,
    I really like this blog. And you are absolutely right. I would love to see you blog about ageism in the job market, especially as it pertains to older people needing to find work & have to deal with recruiters & hiring managers that are twice their junior. That is fast becoming a big issue in the job market. I believe it’s one of the factors why there are so many older people, especially women who are living on food stamps & public assistance or homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the compliment!

      You are absolutely correct that ageism in the job market is a major issue. It’s an issue in a myriad of ways, really. There are the issues you mention, and then there’s also the fact that some people who are getting older are being forced out, either implicitly or explicitly, by their employer. I will need to go through my files to see whether I have a post drafted on this topic, but if not, I definitely agree with you that it’s an important topic. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Like

  2. Hey. I wish! Age is much more than a number. I just turned 70. I don’t look as good as I did when I was 25, not by far. I am not as strong. I am probably a little wiser, but not as sharp mentally. I used to be fairly athletic , but age has a way of piling up broken bones, weakening muscles and slower reflexes. Not saying your heart is not in the right place by opposing ageism. No one should be individually judged just based on age. But getting old is real. True, SOME older folks can do some great things . But they are the exception. You might find this old blog of mine amusing, I hope….. https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/80-is-the-new-36/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just read your piece. The issue is similar now, even though the Democrats are in charge. I think it would be ideal if people of a wider variety of generations were represented…that’s for sure.

      Getting to your comment, I can’t deny the aging process and how, say, you get more broken bones. But at the same time, I’ve met unathletic people in their twenties (I’m one of them) as well as athletic people well beyond retirement age, smart people in their teens and not-so-smart people in their seventies, etc. There are a lot of people who don’t fit the age stereotypes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks. Often age is a multi-purpose weapon (one people think they can get away from) As a clergy person it seemed like I was “too young to really have any experience” and then immediately “we need someone young enough to have new ideas.” It’s considered an acceptable way to dismiss someone without appearing to have anything against that person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. I’ve noticed the same sort of thing, not just with clergy, but with many professions. When you’re young, “You’re too young to have wisdom.” When you’re old, “We need someone with fresh ideas.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that people in their twenties and people in their sixties are the people who struggle to find jobs the most.

      Like

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