There are a few baby-boomer bloggers like myself who write about positive ageing. Sometimes we write about people who are ageing particularly well. But do we need these older role models? Or do they just make the rest of us feel like failures? I belong to the generation of The Beatles and Flower Power. We are now in our late 50’s to mid 70’s and we want to change the perception of older people.
Of course us baby-boomers have always tried to reinvent things. We reinvented being teenagers. We reinvented the music young people liked to listen to. Those of us who became parents reinvented the way we bought up our children.
Now we are reinventing the way we age.
Key to this is trying to get rid of the negative stereotypes the media love to promote for anyone over 55. And as part of that idea we often promote older role models. People who go against normal perceptions of ageing.
Older role models
We write about people in their 70’s 80’s and 90’s becoming successful first novelists; holding down high powered jobs; still competing in athletic meetings.
But there is now a bit of a debate going among the older blogging community as to whether promoting the older role models success stories just make us ordinary mortals feel inadequate.
I disagree. Take writing a novel – I would love to complete one but I always seem to run out of steam a third of the way through. When I read about someone who has just had a novel published in their 70’s, it makes me feel that if I was to put my head down and focus – it is at least achievable.
It makes me want to try harder. Does it make me feel inadequate? Yes a little but it still gives me a goal to aim for, and keeps my mind active.
There are women born in the 50’s who have no choice but to carry on working past their 60’s and I support their cause. I feel they were not really given enough time and the right pension advice to prepare for this major shift change in Government retirement policy.
But inevitably as life expectancy increases we will ALL expect to work longer. So when we promote people in their 60’s starting new business ventures or people in their 90’s still working as Barbers or Hairdressers – it once again demonstrates what is achievable to someone who is still fit and healthy.
People who can still run marathons or lift heavy weights or compete in their 70’s 80’s and 90’s are definitely in the minority. It is not something most of my cohorts will ever aspire to.
They are Masters Athletes and I recently heard a talk by Alex Rotas – a sports photographer (herself in her 60’s) who specialises capturing images of them in action http://alexrotasphotography.co.uk/ The problem is that the media may well publicise the 80-year-old lifting weights without the context that she is a Masters Athletic competitor.
To me these athletes demonstrate what is possible if you are prepared to put in hours of training. But an athlete – whatever their age – will always be a breed apart from the rest of us mere mortals.
We may admire Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill but few of us have the talent and focus to become a Heptathlete. It’s great that female football and rugby teams at last getting some air-time. By the same token it would be good to see more coverage of Masters Athletics tournaments without just honing in on the 90-year-old sprinter.
I don’t want to watch them to feel inadequate but to witness what the human body is capable of. It encourages me to move around more in my own small way, whether its pounding away on my exercise bike or enjoying my Tai Chi classes. I plan to do this as long as I am able.
I work a lot with older people who no longer have the mobility they would like. It can lead to them becoming isolated from society. I am proud to be involved with Action for Elders an organisation that – through their trademarked Balance Lives Programme- provide a chance for those of my age and older who have mobility issues. They meet regularly once a week and socialise with their peers. And they improve their mobility gently – through a specially adapted exercise programme.