Why are some children fearful of the elderly?




I overheard a young child of pre-school age say to his mum

“I don’t want to see Granny, I don’t like her”.

This reminded me of the day one of my sons said “I don’t want to see Nanny, she scares me”. I was shocked and a little upset by this as Nanny had always spoilt the boys rotten and was always pleased to see them.I should say hear from them as sadly she was blind an unable to see them.

Hearing this child recently starting me questioning the issue “why are some children fearful of the elderly?” and I have come to this conclusion.

Children’s views concerning older people are greatly influenced by the books, stories and verse that they are exposed to at an early age. A good example is a verse from a traditional folk song – “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly. I don’t  why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.”

When stories refer to witches they never portray them as beautiful and young they are “The wicked OLD witch”

Armed with such verse, beloved as it is for its fun and nonsense, and with the portrayals of wickedness and wretchedness of older people in some Grimm or Anderson fairy tales, is it any wonder that the elderly are viewed as silly, inconsequential, and utterly disposable in some societies ?

One positive here is fewer and fewer children are being told the traditional stories and Fireman Sam,Postman Pat and Dora to mention a few have replaced them. Even with this in mind elderly people often have wrinkles and when very elderly can become quite skeletal in frame and this very different to their parents who they spend most of their time with.

What do you think? Please let me know your views.

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Award-winning blogger and care columnist for Devon Life magazine, Caron also campaigns for recognition of the needs elderly people and their carers. Designer and creator of the award-winning Dementia Assistance Cards which are free to all, and helping thousands of people globally Caron is passionate and committed to making a difference


  1. Hi Will,
    Thanks for leaving that comment. I cannot totally disagree with you and your daughters’ observation of many elderly people. I think though after years of caring for the elderly in their homes I must offer a defence for them.

    Many elderly people have limited mobility, reduced reaction time, and a general cognitive slowing. This added to pain, sight loss, bereavement and a struggle to manage day to day activities such as shopping makes life difficult for them. Some live lonely, isolated lives and have little to be happy about and social skills such as smiling and being sociable is an effort.

    I think if we all made an effort to smile at the elderly more it may be reciprocated. I may be wrong.

    Thanks again Will for taking the time to comment.

  2. My 6 year old daughter and I have a running joke that all old people are grumpy and rude. Sadly, her experience is that many old people are rude and unfriendly in public and seem to have a certain attitude of disapproval towards young people. Kids pick up on this as they are so sensitive. One hears a lot about how one should respect ones elders. Personally I believe we must respect all those around us, regardless of age. Not only that but a SMILE goes an awfully long way! That is certainly what I try to teach my daughter.

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