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.


  1. It is indeed rare to find a film or book in which elderly or old (a very thin line there, I think) people are portrayed without ridicule. "Gran Torino" with Clint Eastwood (and directed by him as well) is one such film, I have written a review about that on my blog.
    My dad will be 70 tomorrow, so the topic is in my focus these days quite a lot. His hair is white, and he is considerably slower than he used to be, but most of the time he does not take himself too seriously and makes fun of it. Sometimes, though, he lets on that he does miss being as strong and quick and useful as he was in his younger days. He still is very much needed in the family (all my trips to the vet's, for instance!), and I hope we'll have him around for another 70 years :-)

  2. Yep old or dead - not that we have a choice, obviously. Word verification is "grumbali" - I will refrain from making an ageist comment but just let me say I don't enjoy getting older much

  3. I'm already there with my painting my toenails and colouring my hair. My mother is only 78 and has already given up. My friend Elizabeth Lord has shown me that life is for living as long as you keep on living. At 84 she keeps on telling us at her writing group she has plenty more books inside of her.
    My aunt who 78 just keeps on complaining about how badly life has been to her, even now when you phone her she does nothing but moan it so depressing. I just glad I have Elizabeth to chat to and see that life in old age as something to be enjoyed.
    Let all keep on enjoying life

  4. Well said, Frances!
    These people who mock older people never give a thought to the lives those people have led and the journey they've had to get where they are. Makes me mad it does!
    (And I like going on the trampoline too) x

  5. There are old people and there are people who have lived for a long time. The former tend to be dull and annoying - the latter are often fascinating, fun and inspirational.

  6. Librarian, your father's still just a kid!

    Jenny, neither do I. What the young(er) fail to remember is that we've been where they are, but they haven't been where we are!

    Jarmara, your friend sounds like my kind of woman!

    Teresa, we should get together. Your trampoline, or mine?

    Patsy that's a very good way of putting it.

  7. Great post - my mother was demonstrating highland dancing a few days before her 80th birthday. I want to be like her!

  8. I'm an Old Age Pensioner (just). I don't usually get het up about this. Cash machines? Well, when people a quarter of my age are in front of me they seem to take ages. I did wonder if they are playing some sort on computer game on it.
    By and large I grumble far more about the young than the young grumble about me. Or maybe I am just too deaf to hear them.

  9. Yep, I'm sooo going to wear purple!

  10. Thanks, Rosemary. Our 82-year-old neighbour has just been on a Spanish dancing week-end, jogs, does volutary work, plays umpteen different instruments, makes me tired just to think about her!

    Author Doc, you're just a spring chicken (whatever that is)!

    Maggie, good for you. I hate purple, so I'll stick to my jeans!

  11. I think age is a state of mind...

  12. I think it's OK if it's done with affection and no lack of respect. Elderly loved ones, for example, love to tease and be teased, and enjoy giving as good as they get.

  13. One of the worst afflictions that comes with age is deafness. For me this started at 25 and aids don't do it for me, so I have taken to wearig a badge that states: " I am not deaf. I am ignoring you!"
    However, after listening to Pamela Stephenson a few days ago, I realise that younger people's attitude to oldies and sex needs some attention, particularly in places where their degree of privacy and opportunities for intimacy are controlled by (younger) others.

  14. I play croquet. Although many teenagers play the game there are also many many people in their 80s and 90s still playing competitive croquet at a serious level. At tournaments this can involve 8 hours on one's feet walking and concentrating and it's played in 30+ heat and pouring rain. One lady in our club at 85 is still playing competitive golf as well. Come to New Zealand. Here you are not old until you want to be (or are falling to pieces mentally or physically - which can happen at any age unfortunately)