I’ve noticed our culture generally encourages us to think of all old people as being either aging war vets, distinguished retirees, or brave survivors who have overcome a lifetime of hardship. Thus, old people are often given an automatic ‘hero/victim’ status, and we’re expected to treat them with respect based on these presumptions. Many senior citizens, like the ones that have been described, obviously tend to exploit this goodwill for their own selfish purposes. I believe that a large part of this phenomenon is generational, however. Today’s seniors were born in the 20’s-30’s, and thus lived through the war and a lot of civil strife and turmoil. Because our society obsesses and revisits the events of the last 60 years so often, its only natural that we venerate the people who serve as living reminders of those times. When this ‘greatest generation’ dies out however, and the boomers become the new seniors I think it will be much harder for them to demand respect simply because of their age. North American society is not like societies in Asia or wherever, where age is taken as an automatic sign of wisdom and competence. I think today we respect the elderly based on assumptions about what they have done and lived through, not just how old they are.