Brian Edwards Media

Looking for a good time? Hang out with a few pensioners!

Today is the World Health Organisation’s ‘International Day of Older Persons’.  There are a lot of us – 600 million over-sixties world-wide. The figure will double to  1.2 billion by 2025 and reach two billion by 2050.  We’re part of a demographic revolution – a force to be reckoned with.

In New Zealand,  Age Concern is marking this as ‘Awareness Week’ with celebrations around the country.  

Not everybody will be celebrating. A survey of New Zealanders over 50 conducted by housing charity Abbeyfield and the Auckland University of Technology found that about a third of respondents had experienced age discrimination. A third is a lot.

But the news wasn’t all bad. 85.5% thought other people viewed them as younger than they really were, with only 2% thinking they were older. That’s my experience and the experience of a number of my ‘elderly’ friends. The commonest thing said to Judy and me (Judy’s quite a bit younger) on our  daily walk around Ponsonby/Herne Bay is, ‘Gosh you two are looking really great!’ We ignore the tone of surprise and accept the compliment for what it is. 

I’ll be 74 next birthday, a figure that sounds ancient even to me. But that’s my chronological age; my ‘reasoning age’ is probably somewhere around 25, augmented by another half century’s  experience of the world. I love the challenge of debate and the subtleties of logic and definition which are its coinage. I’m not easy to beat in an argument.

I say this not to boast, but because this is the only area where I have experienced age discrimination, most of it in comments to this site. Ageism is to me no less repugnant than racism or sexism, but it is just as prevalent. The ageist not only believes that the older person’s reasoning ability must be impaired, but that their social, philosophical and political attitudes will be characterised by a rigid conservatism and abhorrence of all things new. Old people are fuddy-duddy, stick in the mud, square, authoritarian,  dogmatic, illiberal, threatened by new ideas, censorious, humourless, fun-averse, intolerant and envious of the young. At the stroke of midnight on the eve of  our 65th birthday our brains, and with them our view of the world, petrify, fossilise, shut up shop, pull down the shutters and become, to borrow from Monty Python’s famous parrot sketch – no longer brains but EX BRAINS.

If you doubt this – and have nothing better to do – read through a few of the comments on any contentious post on this site, then count the number of times those who strongly disagree with what I’ve said, make reference to my age. That really pisses me off.

Of course, paranoia may also be a facet of aging. But of one thing I’m absolutely sure: By far the most interesting, the most stimulating, the liveliest, the sharpest minded, the most incisive, witty, knock-‘em-dead funny, tolerant, forgiving, non-judgmental and, it goes without saying, wisest people I know,  have one thing in common –  a Supergold Card secreted somewhere about  their person.

 Looking for a good time? Hang out with  a few pensioners.    

[You might also be interested in reading a chapter I contributed to Gordon McLauchlan’s book Loving It All, a collection of essays on growing old. My piece was titled I’m Old and I Don’t Like It.]

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  1. Brian, I’m 62 and in many ways I think I’m at, or only slightly past, the top of my game. If I’ve gone off the boil a bit recently, blame earthquakes, EQC, buying another house, the whole Christchurch bit.

    At this end of my career, I’m better at the big picture, with a proven track record and happy clients to back my judgments, and the confidence to stare down trend-of-the-week enthusiasts. I’m fad-proof, which in an academic setting is a real asset.

    Of course, I’ll get restructured, disestablished (how’s that for a weasel-word) or just plain sacked before I reach my chosen retirement date. By some 40-something whiz kid with an MBA, no doubt. But it won’t be anything to do with my age, of course.

  2. I think the biggest problem of getting older is accepting change. Change in me (I’m 65 going on 30) and change in the world around me.
    The changes in me, especially my body, are a bummer but inevitable, so I do everything I can to accept how it is but also to not give in too quickly. Nothing sadder than seeing an older person desperately hanging on to their lost youth. (Cougars are classic examples!) I can still tramp and climb the odd smallish mountain – long may that last!
    The changes in the world I just have to accept but I also need to fight back if I can see an opening where I might contribute. Funny, but I find the present parlous state of TV really annoying – it’s really hard to accept that killing, violence, food and reality shows are virtually all that is offered. Don’t know what I will do when TV7 closes up shop as I just can’t bring myself to sign up for more expensive pap from Mr Murdoch!
    But generally I actually revel in getting older as confusion is replaced with wisdom. Pity our society has lost the ability to honour older folk and shunts them off into holding pens until they die.

  3. It will be interesting to see the impact of “Baby Boomers” on society, when they reach retirement-plus. “Grey Power” may be one of the most powerful organisations in the country.

  4. It never ceases to fill me with wonder. Just what the hell happened to the last 70 years? Yesterday I was in short pants and spending hours thinking about girls. Today, still in short pants, and counting the numerous grandchildren I wonder why I didn’t savour more those minutes, hours, days of juicy participation.

    And now I worry less about what others might think of my opinions, (“You don’t know everything!” says my wife. “Well not quite everything,” I reply modestly.) and sort out the politics of NZ, although John Key seldom calls me for advice.

    And by the way, lie a mirror on a low table. Lean over it and examine your face. This is what your future appearance will be. Be graceful about it all.

  5. 5

    I agree entirely that the more mature have much to contribute to the enrichment of society, but I hope you can have a little empathy for those of my generation – X, and Y – who feel a little short changed by the way the demographic rump of the retiring babyboomers (not including active social contributors like Brian and Judy, obviously) has prioritised itself in driving policy and markets. Some resentment is inevitable is a little room is not left for coming generations to stretch their intellectual and economic limbs, and take a few risks. How else will we develop into fine upstanding greyheads when our time comes?

  6. I experience ageism every day; from my 18 year old son.

  7. The attitude to older people is an issue, especially in the workplace. Years ago when I was still in the corporate IT sector I was advised by a headhunter to take 10 years off my CV, I was 50 at the time and figured by broad and eclectic experience was of value but no, it was seen by a person of my daughters age to be a negative. I moved to the non profit sphere where age and depth of experience are valued more. I have recently heard younger guys bemoaning the lack of “grey hairs” in their companies , perhaps attitudes are changing.
    On the other side I see the new gen Y’s coming through looking for wisdom from the “elders” but not finding it. It’s sad to meet men my age ( 59) who are still acting like teenagers, hedonistic, lightweight and lacking any wisdom to give.
    Present company excepted of course

  8. Looking for a good time? Hang out with a few pensioners, but not at the supermarket on pension day.

  9. I can’t think of anything good that comes with growing old. Mental sharpness dulled, physical agility slowed, reflexes and coordination less certain; all of this accompanies the general deterioration of your body. Not so old that you’re decrepit, but arriving at the juncture of your life where you become mindful that your own immortality is something more than just an abstraction and it is not so remote. Moreso, when some of your friends have already passed away from, heart attacks, cancer, etc.

    A few months ago, my brother was reading ‘Loving it All’ and recommended it to me. Reading your contribution — humour aside — it is tinged with a reflective melancholic poignancy by not so much what you describe but what it actually evokes. It’s not too difficult to supplant oneself into a Senior’s slippers and to rue the thinning lips, receding hairline, the wrinkled skin and turkey neck, the rogue elongated single eyebrow and the luxuriated growth protruding from the ears and nose. All quite depressing, I know.

    But you betray your real feelings by this:

    But of one thing I’m absolutely sure: By far the most interesting, the most stimulating, the liveliest, the sharpest minded, the most incisive, witty, knock-‘em-dead funny, tolerant, forgiving, non-judgmental and, it goes without saying, wisest people I know, have one thing in common – a Supergold Card secreted somewhere about their person.

    Putting aside your odd gripe about growing old, you’ve actually succumbed to your stage of life by preferring the company of Supergold Card Holders. That statement amounts to a wholesale acceptance; rather than embittered resignation, resentment and regret. It’s just as well, because there’s no point in trying to revive a long-dormant vitality and energy, a la the mise en scenes from your previous post.

    The élan and zest that comes with being young, can now only be witnessed and envied; it can’t be relived. With growing old, attitudes, behaviour and outlook on life become entrenched and unyielding. But at the same time, thoughts are more elegiac, wistful and nostalgic. And with that, comes a certain quality that the Younger Generation can’t boast of possessing; it comes by way of the Two-Ws: Worldly and Wizened.

  10. I am 80 and in most respects feel as if I was 60. I have adopted Dale Carnegie’s ideas – forget about yesterday, dont think about tomorrow, just concentrate on today – in other words enjoy every moment of every day. And I do!

  11. In the job field age discrimination is rife and has been for a long time.

    I first struck it at age 42 (I am currently 69).

    Ageism is rampant among NZ employers.

    I currently raise cattle, sheep, eggs, hay and drive a bus regularly.

    According to nz employers I am useless and unemployable.

    The business round table, employers federation, their know all fuckwit mates at Treasury had better wake up soon that there is a huge and growing resourceful workforce out there.


  12. One consequence of being an over-70 woman is that I can finally be myself with men – chatting, joking, laughing – without them thinking it’s a sexual come-on. Very liberating.

  13. Cav39 you obviously move in the wrong circles.

  14. I agree its a nod ,nod ,wink .wink ,approach to employment for more aged candidates.They know that the law says that they arnt allowed to discriminate but it happens anyway.Ive sat in meetings where older candidates are automatically dismissed as posibilties due to their age.If they challenge the decision its very difficult to prove.

  15. 15

    In the broadest perspective, it’s not just older persons disadvantaged by the narrow little minds of that peculiar circle of Hell known as Human Resources. If we purged every HR department in the country, I’m sure unemployment would halve in a week.