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Open Features: Count Me In!

“It’s time everyone was issued with a pair of trainers along with their pension book,’’ urges Mary Pilfold-Allan in this passionately-argued column which emphasises that older citizens should not be air-brushed out of society.

Finally the penny has dropped! The media has woken up to the real world and, as opposed to endless drivel about so-called celebrities, has begun to highlight that women of a certain age have led the way in the ‘noughties’. (Noughties, whoever came up with that one?)

Featuring people like Joanna Lumley campaigning for the Ghurkhas’ cause and Twiggy for her efforts to emphasise that women want to look good and dress fashionably whatever their age, there is a move to state the obvious, that years, like tree rings, add maturity. Has it really taken so long for the media to realise that? After all, if you want to build quality furniture you don’t go out and chop down saplings, you use aged oak!

Four years ago when I first began writing this column, I did a feminism piece about cracking the glass ceiling. I was newly retired and although I had made it to the heights of directorship in my career, it had been an almighty struggle. Now the intervening years have revealed to me to a different barrier, ageism or the ‘move over’ movement and that affects both men and women.

Vacancies may not blatantly state ‘young’ but finding anyone over 50 in the short listed pile for a job interview, well, I wonder? For a couple of decades or more financial institutions have relied heavily on the daring of young bucks and it seems that in politics being wet behind the ears has a definite advantage too. From the wisdom of my ‘perch’, which I hope not to fall off just yet, can I suggest a rethink on both these accounts?

Had our financial gamblers not been quite so cavalier and our politicians slightly less in need of a crash course in good old fashioned management and statesmanship, we could be looking at a brighter decade ahead than the multi-billion millstone of debt around our necks suggests we will be forced to endure.

Ranting over – age allows you to do that – can I just point out to those who aspire to political greatness and may feel that time is running out as they wave goodbye to their 30s or 40s, that Winston Churchill was last elected to lead the country when he was well into his 70s. And I dare anyone to mention to Margaret Thatcher that when she was in office, gaining her bus pass was code for ‘move-over Maggie, you’re time is up’.

On a website called Time Goes By http://www.timegoesby.net/ I found some quotes that aptly put my own feelings on the whole topic of ageism. The older generation is caricatured as “sick, sexless and silly” or “airbrushed out of society”. Anyone of a younger age group who seriously thinks like that would do well to think on another quote “It might be wise to start thinking about their later years earlier”.

Men and women are vastly different creatures as we all know and how they respond to growing older is not only gender related but also a highly personal thing. Some worry about wrinkles or going bald, some care only about loss of status, salary or having to down-size, and others do indeed have to cope was problems of immobility or illness, none of which makes anyone less of a person or indeed, invisible.

I always think that supermarkets are great places for observing people. Try a Wednesday or a Thursday for a good representation of ‘retired’ shoppers. It’s easy to spot them, they will usually be in pairs and the man pushes the trolley.
Some take it all in their stride, it’s normal to share the chores attitude, some are doing it because they are generally interested in food. And then there are others who push the trolley but in a detached, it has nothing to do with me way; they are used to doing better things with their time and now those better things have been taken away, pushing the trolley is something to do. How sad!

The last four years, if nothing else, has taught me to stand up and still insist on being counted and not to take no for an answer. I can only speak from a woman’s point of view, but it would be so easy to fade into the background if I didn’t have the will to go on fighting to be recognised in my own right. So you media manipulators out there, when it comes to planning the pages in 2010, start believing that the opinions, values and needs of those over 50 should be given meaningful space.

Germaine Greer has said a few pithy things in her time, but one thing in particular fits my case, it’s something along the lines of “if you never take your high-heels off, how will you ever know how far you can run.” It’s time everyone was issued with a pair of trainers along with their pension book and society acknowledged that.


To read morde of Mary's columns please visit http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=mary+pilfold-allan


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