I don’t write my blog every day, as I used to. That’s because I’m writing my third novel. Today, with an election tomorrow, I’ve taken time out to reflect and share my thoughts. Hopefully, I will know, by the evening, which party to vote for.
There is a perception that people of a certain age will vote the same way they always have. Some MP’s are banking on it. But there are contradictions in the language used about my age group by the media, and our politicians. On the one hand, the plan is to make everyone work until they are well past the retirement age. However, after sixty, you are seen as part of that great army marching towards death and on the way, costing the country millions by drawing a pension, ruining the NHS, taking up the GP’s time or being a drivelling Alzheimery bloody nuisance.
I sometimes think that we provide the media with a guaranteed succession of horror stories about that hideous condition called ‘ageing’ with little leg work for the journalists. There’s always some poor old sod somewhere easily persuaded to sit in front of a microphone and camera and tell all, be it stories about awful housing, terrible care, hateful nurses or unfeeling adult kids. These stories fill the gaps between the global tragedies and become part of the way we experience fleeting shots of empathy, before we get back to our iPhones.
I’m sick of the way older people are patronized, cursed and grouped. I’m tired of being told to keep looking ‘young’, dye my hair purple, keep my figure, act young – I hadn’t realised I was ‘old’! I feel young and I intend to keep feeling that way. But I know there is gravitas, dignity and wisdom in ageing. There is beauty in wrinkles around the eyes. There are possibilities. There is still a brain in there, even though, every time you see your GP, he asks you if you’ve done the Alzheimer’s test.
The experience of human suffering is universal. Sometimes, I wonder if the media have a graduation table. Tales of elderly misadventure keep us all on our toes, but just a little bit irritated, until the next tsunami hits the news. When we see on TV that poor old Bob from down the road, who was always ‘such a nice chap’ was found alone and dead in his tiny flat, on a street of families who never bothered to knock on good old Bob’s door to say hello on a regular basis, we can feel outraged and empathize – but at a distance, preferably a long distance. Good old Bob should have got a job in B&Q and anyway, it’s really better for everyone concerned that he popped his clogs; one less bed-blocker.
It’s deliberately nasty to make people feel guilty for getting old and then tell them they will have to work into their seventies before they can receive a pension. We have seen, in our very recent past, the way the banks held us all to ransom. Isn’t it time they repaid what they stole, perhaps starting with the poor elderly? We have created a society where there is a lack of money and we’ve turned certain sections of society, especially old people, into the problem. Money is debt and it’s about time we opened our eyes to this fact. I will give my vote to the party that shows real compassion and understands this.
I am not a fan of the word ‘retired’. To me, you only retire when you die. That’s when everything shuts down, like Tesco supermarkets. Before that happens, branding older people – especially those who cannot look after themselves – as second-class parasites, shows a real lack of respect for humanity. It’s not just in the UK this is happening. It’s a global phenomenon.
I sometimes think that my generation are used in whatever way suits the political situation, providing sound-bites on the news and predictable grey votes for those in government. There are more respectful way of seeing the ageing process, one that does not confuse or create the divided opinions we are seeing in the UK and one that does not make anyone over sixty feel guilty for their existence.
Tomorrow, I will make my choice but whoever gets into Downing Street, I just hope they will stop pushing those ghastly words: bed-blockers, pensioners, the frail elderly, a strain on the NHS. And I want the media to stop using words like old codgers, old fogeys, and even ‘elderly’. It’s discriminating. I do not want to be known in the future as that ‘old biddy’, a ‘senior citizen’, or an ‘old fossil’ – thank you. Neither, as I grow older, will I answer to ‘sweet little old lady’. If you are over sixty, you should be referred to as a ‘person’, just like everyone else, for that is what you are, regardless of your age.
Today, reflecting on who to vote for, I note that everyone needs the NHS to function well, not just the ‘old codgers’, everyone needs political and financial security and we all need a compassionate, caring government that doesn’t put us in boxes, before time.