Do you think it's a result of growing consumerism in society?
I discussed this with a friend recently. The question was, why has art become less of an influence in modern society, compared with the past. Society is affluent enough to afford more art than any time in history, but it seems that it's held in lower esteem - or rather, ignored.
I suggested that it was because modern industrialized society defines fundamental milestones in a person's life by consumer purchases (first car, first house, first baby carrier, first suit, etc.), and the idea of "buying as accomplishment" makes consumerism a sort of status symbol ("keeping up with the Jonses").
In the past, rich families would express their status by supporting artists - partly because of the attitude, and partly because there simply weren't the same goods available for sale back in the Medici's time.
These days, you not only can buy a lot more, you also have to as the older stuff becomes obsolete (and worn out, as it's not made to last as long anymore). In fact, in most things you own or use or even touch, being old becomes a problem.
Maybe this influences how people see other people as well? On the surface at least - ask anyone, and they'll say there are things to admire about older people, but only after some thought. First impressions usually don't reach that depth. Are the first impressions with people from the same attitude as first impressions of objects?