Old is a negative word – unless we’re talking about a vintage wine or valuable antique – but to be old is just not considered good in the Western word.
I’d love to be told about a sitcom, film or documentary that has a focus on what it really feels like to be old rather than to merely inhabit the body, and to carry the preconceptions our society has of ‘an old person’.
An 83-year-old woman told me yesterday that she has no idea yet about what it feels like to be old. However, for at least half the population of the western world, old is what happens to you after about 33 years of age.
The age pressure on woman is greater – the biological clock, inequality of opportunity and the lack of positive comments from our TV, films and books about being an older women.
How rare is it for menopause, for example, to be projected as positive? Why do we so rarely see scenes of women discussing it openly, especially discussing it as something natural as opposed to completely awful?
Our society, and therefore the media, champion and value the young rather than the wise and knowing folk who have travelled life’s path for longer. The wise ones are portrayed as past their sell-by date and out of touch with the present day.
The technological changes in the last thirty years have perhaps exacerbated the divide between the happening ages and those over the hill. There are many over 50s who are up to speed with technology, but for those who aren’t what TV (or radio!) programmes are out there to encourage older people to learn these skills?
No one would suggest that the young lack in spark, passion and creativity. Of course they should be valued too but not to the exclusion of the rest of the population. Can it be in our interests to perpetuate the age divide? The young become old one day and it is to their benefit too that it becomes much more cool to look at, listen to, question and discuss with older people – basically to bother and see them rather than to drop an all-encompassing judgement of ‘old’ upon them.
Currently, older people are replaced by younger ones in the work force just because of their greater age, while the media constantly projects the young body as a pre-requisite for presenting programmes.
Where do the media present positive role models of older people by giving value and high status to them? Who are our wise elders that the media project in western society?
Perhaps this lack of recognition and respect for old men and women contributes to why we don’t learn from past mistakes in order to take successes forward. Certainly it can’t be right to continue to present old age as a generally negative, uncomfortable, boring and awful way to spend half of our lives.
School days may not be the best days of your life, nor may your twenties, but to what extent can we look to the media to show us this?