I wrote this article and sent it to The Age after being totally annoyed by the report of this study. The Age wasn’t interested, though they did send me a polite rejection. So I thought I’d place it inside my blog. Never waste a good gripe, is my motto. So here goes:
As a community, we are only too ready to condemn any report of racism or anti-feminism, or anything else for that matter. Yet The Age newspaper report of a study done by Dr. Lauren Saling of Charles Stuart University serves to reinforce certain unfortunate attitudes.
This study claims to prove that older people are ‘less able to tell a coherent story’, often repeat themselves, have no ‘form of self-correction’, find it harder to receive information, particularly when it comes to medical matters and consequently are a danger to themselves and others.
Because this study has been poorly reported, possibly due to lack of space, it’s open to a number of queries. Which senior citizens did Dr Saling use in her study? This report reads that even if these seniors were considered ‘healthy’, that we don’t really know whether these seniors have had very little education or are even half way to dementia. It emphasises a current belief that once people are over a certain age, that they’re overly loquacious, can no longer be considered useful, and the sooner they disappear the better as that will leave room for younger generations.
I hear too many accounts of schools, tertiary institutions, government and private firms persuading their older employees to leave so they can employ younger, and therefore cheaper, workers… who then have to figure out all over again how to design the wheel.
As a working writer/facilitator, I meet many elderly folk who volunteer in institutions that would be lost without their help. They are also instrumental in raising grandchildren, thus saving considerable cost on state funded child care. I meet them when they are writing up their personal stories so future generations will know something of our history, much of which is forgotten or ignored. It’s my experience that these seniors are as sharp as the latest ceramic knife, even if they find the latest technology a little more bewildering.
But this is a generation, often in their seventies, eighties and nineties, who ‘boiled nappies in a copper’, bought food from horse drawn trucks, had outside dunnies, and can recall every detail of what Australia was like in pre and post World War 2. This generation has been through more social and technological change than ever experienced by anyone before, and mostly they handle it very well.
But I’m talking about Melbourne. It’s possible that Perth’s harsher desert climate leads to a greater need for eye-glasses, hearing aids and memory expansion techniques.
If anyone wants to disagree about younger folk not being equally repetitive, I would suggest that they run a critical eye over twitter and Facebook where the vocabulary is limited to approximately two hundred words.
It’s always been a source of amusement to me that if was run over by a bus, the media report would first state my age as being of prime importance, then my gender. Only if I was lucky enough, it might mention how I have spent the best part of my life.
So could we please have fewer articles about the dangers of growing old? There is, after all only one alternative to aging and I don’t think most of us are rushing towards it.