Sunday, 9 September 2007

Old gold

As a fully paid-up sexagenarian, I'm glad ageism is a hot topic nowadays, with new laws recently passed on the subject. But there are still some hoary old stereotypes about oldies. To mention but a few:

(1) They can't do anything active any more, they're physically over the hill. Actually we're getting so adventurous doctors are seeing more and more sports injuries among oldies who just refuse to slow down.

(2) They're set in their ways, stuck in the past. But there are loads of Silver Surfers glued to their computers and grey-haired militants rooting for radical issues like global warming and third-world poverty.

(3) They're grumpy and cranky, all they do is moan. Tell that to the sprightly volunteers in the charity shop or the beaming grandma looking after her adored grandchildren.

(4) They never have sex, the vital juices have dried up. On the contrary, oldies are having so much sex with so many partners there's been a big increase in STIs in that age group. Viagra has a lot to answer for!

(5) They hate young people. Not if they have the charming grandchildren just mentioned. Not if they're going to evening classes full of youngsters. Not if they're avidly reading books by young authors.

(6) They're afraid of everything and everyone and scared to go out the front door. My 85 year old mother has just set off on a coach holiday to the South of France, on her own, and expects to have a whale of a time. There are oldies doing parachute jumps, climbing mountains and sailing around the world.

Certainly I surprise myself with my complete non-resemblance to any of the ageist clichés, feeling and acting much the same as I did ten or twenty years ago. I still work, I'm still healthy, my brain's still buzzing, I'm still insatiably curious about all sort of things. If I hear one more reference to doddery pensioners playing bingo, I think I might lash out with my razor-tipped zimmer frame. Clapped-out oldies? Harumph.


  1. I wasn't at all suprised to see the recent study on the high rate of sexual activity of people into their 80s. Well of course. It's not like the pleasure centers in the brain switch off.

  2. Great post!
    As the old seanachie said, Nick:
    We are only old when we lose our sense of wonder. And that covers all sorts of arenas, doesn't it??!!

  3. medbh - Absolutely. Why are oldies supposed to lose interest anyway? It would be difficult with the constant deluge of sexual material in the papers and on TV. You'd have to be made of stone not to respond.

    www - Yes indeed, it's important to keep the sense of wonder. And there's plenty of things to arouse it, if you just look around with eyes wide open. In this world teeming with novelty, how can anyone ever say 'I've seen it all'?

  4. Well and with all that free time on their hands after retirement why not take advantage of a little "afternoon delight"?
    Plus the extension of life spans makes old age relative.
    Oh, and good for your mom. She sounds like a hell of a woman.

  5. Oh yes I'm always ready for some Afternoon Delight! But don't wax too lyrical about my mum, she's a weird mixture - very adventurous and independent but also horribly right-wing. Though she did tell my dad to get lost when he wanted her to stay at home rather than training as a teacher.

  6. totally agree, my parents are fitter and more active than I am and in certain lights look better - go you.

  7. And I bet they say all the time 'You really must find a man and settle down dear, it'll do you the world of good'. Well, I expect you will Flirty, but only when you're good and ready. You're obviously having far too much fun to consider a drastic change of lifestyle just yet.

  8. "razor tipped zimmer frame" I like it!
    I think in the old days it was retire and wait to die, that changed long ago though. It seems like now it's retire, get rid of the kids (no, not kick out but they move out anyways) and voila! Enjoy life to the max. What I love the most about the new 60+ year-youngs is the continuing education, they learn and learn and learn. Insatiable for knowledge, new skills.
    The only problem I see is from employment side I think employers still have the blurred vision about hiring people with an older birthdate. They are not only more knowledgable but also more experienced and more dependable, reliable. In my opinion anyways. Hopefully this will change too sometime soon and it will be easier for them to get in and out of jobs, move a bit more freely in jobs sector.

  9. Thats's right Gaye, oldies nowadays want to go on learning and trying things out. I think at one time they actually believed the myth that after a certain age you can't learn any more.

    I'm sure there's still a lot of prejudice from employers, though hopefully it's declining. Certainly I haven't seen any obvious prejudice here in NI - if you've got the relevant skills and you're healthy, your age seems to be pretty much a non-factor.

  10. That's great to know. Might this be true for all of Ireland?

  11. Ah the South I wouldn't know about, not in touch with any aging Southerners to ask. Maybe not so open-minded as NI has much tougher equality laws (a legacy of the Troubles) and there's less you can get away with here.

  12. I think things are definitely changing for the better - probably because we have a much bigger population of older people. My 72 year old mother has more energy than me. She's amazing!

  13. I think that's right Con, the increasing number of oldies gives us a bit more clout. Good to hear your mother is still full of beans.