Diaper Humor is Best Left to Those Who Know What They're Talking About

Last updated: September 29, 2008
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A recent discussion about adult diapers and humor caught my attention. In her blog, “The New Old Age,” New York Times writer Jane Gross reflects on a series of stories in Slate for what it calls its Geezer Issue or "Slate Goes Gray."

While appreciating some of the information in the series, Gross found a few articles offensive because they poke fun at aging. She was particularly bothered by a first-person review of adult diapers, written by a 27-year-old guy who admittedly had no experience with the products before being asked by Slate to do a test drive and write about it.

I’ve written about adult diapers a few times in this space. For many seniors and caregivers diapers are simply a necessary part of daily life. This includes writing about another diaper test drive, or in this case, a test drive threat. This was by the health minister of Ontario, Canada in a flap about the quality of care in state-run nursing homes. (He backed down after being ridiculed.) The media had a lot of fun with this brouhaha, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Daiper test drives. This is kind of a crack up. I do appreciate how humor can help us deal with tough times and unpleasantness, of which there’s no shortage of in aging, unfortunately. I’ve given myself the “lighten up” lecture a few times.

On the other hand, I totally get Jane Gross’s reaction to the Slate article. And it even made me giggle a bit, which it didn’t for her. The writer, Justin Peters, has an appealing low-key sense of humor.

But here’s the deal: “Outsider” humor about people different than you is risky business and often offensive. This is true whether it’s joking about race, religion, disability, illness, or age --- realities of personal experience. Mr. Peters is 27; he doesn’t need diapers. To all the good folks living the daily reality of adult incontinence, he’s way outside. He may never have to look at a diaper again.

Now if a nursing home of diaper-wearers decided to put on a comedy about their garb, I probably wouldn’t find it offensive. (Whether I’d find it funny would depend on their show.)

Another thing: Mr. Peter’s diaper review draws some potentially useful conclusions. He definitely found that some brands do a better job than others. But, consider the source. Most scientific research uses subjects who represent the target population. In other words, products for older people are tested on older people. I happen to know there’s a whole bunch of better qualified experts out there to offer advice on adult incontinence products. This would be the millions of people who use them, or their caregivers. No test drives needed. It’s called living.

Image by Flickr user Misocrazy under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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2 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

over 2 years ago

Today's, story is rather personal but what the heck, I have already let you past the protective barrier of my privacy, so why stop now. I hope in some small way that my realizations can benefit some of you. A couple years ago I was working hard at my warehouse and had a big sneeze. Not an earth shattering sneeze but an unexpected loud nose clearing sneeze. Much to my surprise, I had an accident in my pants. I was both shocked that my body did not perform as normal and stunned that such a thing could happen to me. Mr. Football hero, hard, strong laborer and macho man had a mess in his pants from an ordinary sneeze. Now this was of course written off as a fluke, it can't happen to me. Then it began to happen in other capacities as well. Straining to lift a box, swinging an axe to split wood and so forth. Well this was not acceptable; I am much too young to have any such problems. Well my doctor disagreed and assured me I was lucky to be problem free this long. Now when I left his office my inclination was to go into denial mode and go on ignoring the problem. Having a sense of humor I began to make jokes around folks my own age, about how dangerous it is to sneeze at my age. These comments all elicited laughter and understanding. I got the sense that I was not alone and we older boomers were sharing the same experiences. So I began to expand or refine my humor to include other potential senior problems,(do I really need to name them?) and found even more comradery in the grey community. I never had to spell out anything but the agreement and recognition on all their faces told me I was not suffering alone. Once again my doctor back in the 60's was right, laughter is the greatest health drug there is. I have since gone on a quest to deal with my occasional problem and now when I have heavy work; I not only take along clean underwear but a diaper as well. A quick aside, as you can tell from my bravado, I am not about to walk into a supermarket and purchase adult diapers, so I went to the internet. I found a very user friendly site that answered all my questions and needs and ordered from them. What was nice is I did not have to dig through page after page of ordering crap to make my purchase. It is all right there, click a button and punch in my visa and I am done. Try http://diaperdispatcher.com So I guess my point in today's lecture is laugh at life because it sure as heck is laughing at you. Enjoy the cherished days we have here and smile it may lead to a laugh.

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almost 4 years ago

I have been in the field of geriatric care for 25 years and have specialized in treating the frail elderly, especially those with Alzheimer's disease, the many types of dementia and the associated behavioral dysfunctions. I have spent my entire career advocating for the elderly. I just read Justin Peters' article about his efforts to "test drive" and rate adult diapers. I found his article to be helpful and not in the least offensive. I thought he handled a sensitive subject with a dry wit by admitting his shortcomings and then went on to do a very admirable job in comparing the products. Certainly I got more unbiased information than was available anywhere else. So to Mr. Peters I say thanks and job well done. And to his critics I respectfully suggest they lighten up a little. The geriatric healthcare system has reached critical mass. We can't afford distractions.

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