Monday, 30 January 2012
Ageism is ok, isn't it?
As I edge dangerously close to being elderly myself (I'm still not sure how old you have to be to qualify), I'm increasingly aware of ageism. Old people are, apparently, funny. It's fine to make jokes about deafness, zimmer frames, short-sightedness, incontinence - in fact all the humiliations and disabilities that go with old age. Happening upon the TV programme Room 101 last week, I noticed that the people one contestant wanted to get rid of were old people at cash machines. They fumble, they hold you up, they get in the way. They are a nuisance.
Now, all this may be true, but if they had suggested getting rid of, say, black, Jewish, gay or handicapped people, with or without cash machines, there would have been an uproar. But the elderly are fair game. The don't on the whole fight back.
And then there is the portrayal of older people in novels (by younger novelists, needless to say). I have just read a novel in which a very elderly man - doddery, wizzened, one foot in the grave - turns out to be just 73. And I have come across this in other novels, too. As for children's books, we grannies are all depicted with our hair in grey buns, sitting in rocking chairs knitting. Well, this granny hasn't got a rocking chair, her knitting is terrible, but she still rides a horse (yes. I know I was going to get rid of him...) and loves to use the kids' trampoline. I'm not trying to prove anything; I'm just being who I am.
I do think that some people allow themselves to become old before they need to - my father certianly did - and this is partly their perception of themselves, and partly due to bowing to the perception of others. But come on, girls! Dye your hair, paint your toenails (if you can't reach, get someone else to do it for you), put on your jeans and have a go on the trampoline. It's great fun. As for those who mock, well, they've got it coming to them sooner or later. If they live long enough.