Ageism in 21st Century

The baby boomers, those people born immediately after the second world war, have grown up and joined the rapidly swelling ranks of the UK’s over 50’s. I was born at the start of the war in 1939, but by including myself in their number, I can state that being both over 50 and female, at this time in history, is exciting and a challenge.

Generally speaking, older adults in the UK today are healthier, have experience, knowledge, and more disposable income than previous generations. Personally I feel comfortable with my maturity, and I’ve finally come around to accepting who and what I am. I love this time of my life and regard it as bonus time. However, within the 50+ group there does appear to be a division regarding ageing with the majority of people plannning positively for the future, but a minority still feeling extremely negative about it. Positive agers relish their individualism, are open-minded and eager to embrace all opportunities life still has to offer.

One in 10 persons in the world today is over the age of sixty. By the year 2050 this proportion will have doubled to one in five. Along with others of my age, I didn’t reach this stage of my life without some experiences. Up to date not all these experiences have been good, in fact, many of them have been downright horrid. However, they all taught me a thing or two, and I have acquired knowledge, understanding and a little wisdom. Exposure to difficulties in the past makes it easier to cope with present day problems.

Knowledge acquired throughout life is invaluable, and it shouldn’t be allowed to go to waste. It could be said that we mature folk are chronologically advantaged, because we have so much to offer. Traditionally in past generations, and still in many societies throughout the world today, old age is positively coveted. Many young people seek knowledge and guidance from older family members or community elders and find them a source of great wisdom and inspiration. These young people respect their elders for their individuality, independence and inspiration.

Sadly, here in the UK today, it appears that respect for older persons in our society is disappearing, with too many young people tending to belittle mature folk. This is a major problem which older people in the community need to readdress before it gets out of hand. Ageism is becoming a fact of modern day living and we need to do something to stop it. Older people need to reclaim their position in society, and should be treated with the honour, respect and reverence they deserve. They need to empower themselves, and to re-establish themselves as people who matter – as people who have a great deal to give to today’s society – not least of which is experience.

In recent generations successful women have become more visible and prominent in our society, in business, politics, teaching, the media, and the law. In retirement many of these women, along with the men who have had successful careers, will have time – as well as money to spend. Retired folk are generally better off today, and free from the constraints of paid work and family commitment, they are able to indulge themselves. With a positive attitude to ageing, many people view retirement as a time of life in which to experiment, experience and explore new horizons.

I am a single, independent woman who feels, happy, confident and comfortable with herself. I am physically, mentally and sexually active and love the challenge that modern life offers a mature woman. I travel and meet new friends, and reacquaint and spend time with old ones. Being fit, I can play tennis, tend my garden, mess about in boats, lose myself in oil painting, or spend time with my four grandchildren. I am a superactive 70 year-old and I have finally come around to accepting who and what I am.

18 months ago I, felt confident, buoyant and optimistic in my attitude to reaching the ripe old age of 70. I was excited at becoming a mature person in the 21st century, so set about writing a book to encourage other people to feel the same way. I felt my project, although much of it applied to men, was of particular interest to women, so I gave it the working title of “A Mature Girl’s Guide”. My book encompassed all aspects of mature life, from nutrition, physical and mental fitness, to financial matters, relationships and sex. Yes – despite what the young might think, many of us over 60 still indulge in sex!

The research and writing has been all absorbing and has convinced me that we are at a turning point in man’s history, in both attitude and aptitude to maturity. I also became increasingly aware of the need for older people to fight for power and recognition in a world that has become obsessed by youth culture. With my book completed and safely in the hands of a literary agent I eagerly awaited response from interested publishers. After all, I had written 7 previous books and had a good track record. I decided to take my project further by preparing a “treatment” for a possible television or radio series, and was pleased with the outcome.

But sadly that was where the idyll ended and reality began. I soon became aware that many Publishers, Commissioning Editors and Channel Controllers, the people who have the power within the media today, are brilliant, talented young people – but half my age. Superb and technically superior as they are in their chosen profession, many of them do not accept the need to cater for the requirements of people over the age of 40, yet alone 60 plus. One TV Director told me that to any treatment submitted, which uses the word “ageing”, doesn’t stand a chance of consideration. With so much emphasis on youth, anyone over the age of 60 is likely to be dismissed as “over the hills and past it.” I do wonder if these young people realise that they too will reach the age of 60 one day? For sure, they can’t begin to imagine just how soon that will be.

By the year 2031, out of a total population of 62.8 million people in the UK – 16.5 million will be older people of pensionable age. That is over 26% of the UK population whose needs should be catered for. The image of age has changed, and pre-conceptions of ageing must be cast aside, and older viewers and readers given what they want. More motivational, informative programmes and articles that are interesting and appropriate to the age groups. And not just “fuddy duddy” – older people can be vibrant and fun.

Older people do matter, and are a force to be reckoned with. Mature people tend to select carefully and spend their money wisely. The media will increasingly need their custom as the older population grows in numbers and strength. So I challenge you bright, intelligent, and young media Commissioners, Controllers and Editors to consider these needs – or – to ignore them at your peril. Happily for me my book was eventually published – under the title “Live Longer, Look Younger, Look Great” (Hamlyn) and has proved a huge success….

Published by Editor

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