Sunday, August 28, 2016

Katharine Whitehorn / New ways of being old

Keith Richards
New ways of being old

There’s no longer any consensus on how senior citizens ought to behave. It’s up to us…

Katharine Whitehorn
Sunday 7 August 2016 11.00 BST

t wasn’t a christening, it wasn’t a coming of age, but one agreeable event some days ago was a lunch to celebrate a friend’s 80th birthday. One doesn’t always think of growing seriously older as something to celebrate, but these days piling on the years isn’t anything like such a trial as it was once.

We may not share Macbeth’s view regarding “that which should accompany old age / As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends” – there’s certainly a marked lack of obedience. But we have so much that our ancestors wouldn’t have had, starting (at least for some) with the glories of computers and such, and the good chance of actually getting to old age rather than having succumbed to incurable ailments.
We take it for granted that somebody will do something if and when we are ill. In some places they – or should I say we – have concessions on things like bus passes and cheap radios, and people helping us up stairs or down the escalator.
But even setting all that aside there’s the fact that so many people of Saga age are still working, if it suits them; and that charities and clubs rely on retired people to keep things going. There are, of course, lots of older people who have a rotten time, but what has really changed for the better is that there’s far less assumption that the aged will behave in a certain way, or be too old to enjoy this or that – to which we often say: “How do you know if you don’t let me try?”
Getting old is not the trial it once was. There is no longer any universal agreement on what old people should or should not do – it’s up to us.

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