Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ageism Alert

I was following a Facebook thread about, among other things, Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention and how he seems to have aged since his presidency. Fair enough comment I thought then came the clanger which was along the lines of well, he's close to seventy and he gave a long speech so he's probably tired. What?

I managed to restrain myself from commenting - don't like hijacking someone else's Facebook thread - but really. In what world is close to seventy even vaguely to be considered a reason for being tired or that making a long speech is likely to be tiring? Now I know nothing about Mr Clinton's health issues but I'm pretty certain having been President of the United States must take a physical toll on anyone. The stress alone would be tremendous so maybe he is feeling the weight of all those years but is that anything to do with him being close to seventy? I really do not think so.

With this one remark the commenter has put all people in their late sixties and early seventies in a box labelled 'old' and suggested that they are starting to fail physically and mentally. Now I'd be the first to acknowledge that as we age we have to deal with physical issues but - unless you are already suffering from a chronic illness or disability - you're likely to be much older than seventy before it starts to really have a major effect on your life. It's highly unlikely at least to be to the point of making you tired after you've done something you've been doing all your life - like Bill Clinton making a long speech.

Just in case I was being unrealistic I decided to have a look at how many heads of state are in the over 65 age bracket, (I did not include monarchs, only presidents, chief ministers or prime ministers of the various countries). In 2015 out of 196 countries 81 of these public figures were over 65 - and here is a link to a chart if you're interested although I actually went to each country to collate my figures. Granted there are a handful of national leaders whose fitness you might want to question - and they're not all over 65 I hasten to say - but that so many of the world's leaders are in that age bracket might make you think that just maybe everyone who is close to seventy is not falling apart either physically or mentally.

Then I went closer to home and looked at the people in my immediate neighbourhood who are in the 65 plus age bracket. While there are many young families living around here there are also two 75 year olds who both go for a five kilometre walk every day.  There's a 71 year old who handles all the stage management for two theatre companies - yes, two companies. There's a land surveyor who's still working at 70. Then there's the 70 year old grandmother who cares for two toddler grandchildren four days a week and several others who look after grandchildren before and after school. I should also mention the 80 year old who arranges and co-ordinates a calendar of monthly events for a large social group and add in several mid seventy year olds who write fiction and non-fiction books and are published regularly. Oh and then there are a couple of company directors in their seventies who are still actively involved in business. I'm sure that this area is no different from many others so you can see why I was stunned by the obvious ageism.

Yes, there are those who are ill or can't cope but don't lump all older people into that basket. It's insulting for one thing and simply unfair for another.


Jo said...

In my exercise class there is a 94 yr old who has absolutely nothing wrong with her and is as sharp as a tack. There are also several in their 80s all doing fine. At my seniors bowling league we have one 92 yr old and several 80 yr olds one of whom is going to be 90 this year. I personally am 78 this year and bowl twice a week, exercise twice a week and, as you may have noticed, write a blog. Bill giving a long speech would not have tired him out one bit I don't think. If it did it would NOT be because he was nearly 70.

Winston Churchill was about 69 when he lead Britain in the second world war.

Helen V. said...

It was just ridiculous, Jo. So much ignorance.