Allan Takes Aim Blog

Old and young in same boat

Posted on: 16 February 2012


First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 14 February, 2012

Could someone please define “old” for me? I’m interested in the subject because many people seem to think “old age” is a category to be used exclusively by age pensioners.

This assumption is egregiously wrong. Many people will attest to (myself included) that age is a relative state which is why as a boy of fifteen and on a rung near the bottom of life’s ladder, I wanted to be seen old enough to be thought in the age bracket that would help enhance my standing among the girls. And although I never asked them, I think most girls thought the same in reverse.

That apart, having cogitated about old age for many years and although old ag has given rise to some famous aphorisms that some of us know to be true, eg. “Old sins cast long shadows” I think age is simply a state of mind. Unfortunately however, many ageing men and women who having nearly reached the top of life’s ladder and now need help to climb the last few rungs because they require more care and attention than those still at the bottom and those only halfway up, seem to be regarded as pests that need exterminating.

This seems strange to me when the Federal Government is exhorting older people who haven’t retired to keep on working and those who have retired to look for a job. While such exhortations sound good in a thirty second TV grab, I wish I could cast my cynicism aside to say this shows how the Federal Government appreciates older people.

Sadly I have to say it seems more than likely these exhortations are due to the fact that the working old will mean the Government not having to pay out as much for pensions while paying tax and so helping to fill up the treasury’s coffers.

Also, despite such exhortations, many older people still face prejudice. Many, healthy, fit, alert highly skilled people in the 60 and 70 years age bracket who apply for jobs they could do standing on their head get turned down with remarks that they are over qualified. And I’m not only talking about men, many women are in the same boat.

And as I cogitate I recall it is not eons ago that these same people were looked upon, not with jaundiced and prejudiced eyes but with respect for having climbed life’s ladder despite a great many difficulties. Today, unfortunately, instead of being respected, many of them – too many – now feel valueless and without dignity. Many also hope that as they put their foot on the topmost rung of life’s ladder, it will break and they will suffer a fatal fall.

But as life is not meant to be sad, on a more cheerful note let say that one of my life’s greatest pleasures has been meeting and talking to people older than me who have gained much wisdom and experience that has passed me by. Some of these people live in Canberra and though I do not know them personally their names are familiar to me, and likely familiar to you as writers of letters to the editor or writers of opinion features. Nevertheless, and regardless of whether or not I agree with them, many times I wish I had written such pieces myself.

But perhaps one of the greatest ironies about age prejudice is that it doesn’t only apply to older people. It applies also to many young people who educated themselves to help make climbing the ladder of life easier. Sadly, as many have found out, their education counted for naught because, at job after job interview, interviewers said they did not have enough experience. The result: in common with some older people, some young people start to feel valueless and wonder if life is worth living.

But whether old or young I think it wise to be careful about what you wish for. For example: the old shouldn’t wish to be young again because they can’t take their experience with them while the young shouldn’t wish to be old because they don’t have enough life experience to take with them. As you can see, young or old, age really is a problem.
dca@netspeed.com.au

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday.

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38 Responses to "Old and young in same boat"

I agree that old age is a state of mind. My ex-husband told me when he was 34 that he was no longer young, and withing two weeks, he had become old. I mentioned this to a lady whom I barely knew, and she told me that her husband had done exactly the same thing, at the same age, and had also become old within two weeks. There is a lesson to be learnt here, I think.

Dear Lady Marylin,

Glad someone agrees with me.

Regards, Don

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