Jeremy Paxman recently rallied against the way some people treat anyone past 50 as ‘a virtual corpse’. And I have to say, that there are times when I heartily agree with him. When I was looking for a design to adorn the cover of Life Begins at Fifty, I sent off a specification to a website whereby lots of designers compete for your business. It was obvious from the designs that came back that some people had read my spec and others had just designed what they thought ‘Life Begins at Fifty’ meant to them. I was in fits of laughter when I clicked on one that had a couple who looked about 65 to me, with perfectly coiffured hair, elasticated slacks and ‘safe’ tops, both staring at the camera with benign grins, cheek to cheek, looking as if they had just stepped straight out of a Saga advert. Oh Lordy! But the piece de resistance was two elderly people tentatively crossing a zebra crossing with a zimmer frame!! That was obviously what these young designers thought 50 looked like, God forbid.
Also at about this time, strange things started to happen to me on Facebook. I’d be merrily catching up with friends when adverts would pop up to the right of my screen advertising life insurance, with an old woman looking forlorn, standing over a gravestone. What the hell? And I suddenly got leaflets through the post from my doctor’s surgery asking if I would attend a Well Woman Clinic to have my cholesterol checked.
‘Most of my patients would kill for a waist like that,’ smiled the nurse checking my blood pressure, etc.
‘Hmm, but not boobs like these,’ I countered, pointing to my poached eggs.
But back to Jeremy…he was aghast that Mature Times, a publication aimed at the over 50s was full of adverts for hearing aids, recliner chairs, copper insoles, stair lifts, devices to help you out of the bath, and, to cap it all, a book named ‘Your Life after Death’. ‘Who wants to be called “mature” like an old cheese?’ he said. ‘We all know that “mature” means on the verge of incontinence, idiocy and peevish valetudinarianism.’ (ie: banging on about your health). ‘They might as well have named it the Surgical Stocking Sentinel or Winceyette Weekly,’ he moaned. I have to say I do agree with him on the mature front. I don’t actually think people who are mature as being on the verge of peeing their pants or losing their marbles, but I have to say I wouldn’t take kindly to anyone actually calling me mature.
Immature is fine. In fact if someone called me immature I would probably take it as a compliment, but mature, to me, embodies someone who is serious, responsible, practical, toes the line, etc! Oooh no! The whole point of getting older is that you don’t actually have to act as if you’re old any more. You just are. It’s just an irritating fact. You can actually do whatever you damned well want to and don’t really give a toss any more. It’s really quite liberating!
My kids nearly doubled up when they were recently talking about ‘retirement homes for the over 55s’ and realised that I, at the ripe old age of 56, would qualify.
“Blimey, can you see Mum buying one of those? She’d be slung out for having too many parties,” Rachel chortled.
Quite! I remember my mother-in-law telling me years ago that once you get past the age of 25, you never really feel any older. Your body ages, but your mind remains 25. And she’s absolutely right. Your personality doesn’t really alter, you just add more experience and wisdom(!?) to your persona, (allegedly). When I dropped my kids off at school when they were little, I recognised some of the other mums, as they’d been in my form at school many moons ago, and I realised in an instant that the shy ones at 11 were still shy at 30-odd, whereas the extroverts were still very much the crazy loonies they had been way back when. A bit like me, really! And proud of it!
So why DO advertising executives not get this? Why do they never seem to appeal to the mischievous little girl/boy in us, telling us about wild and whacky adventures we could spend our money on, (and no, I am not talking cruises!) and throw financial planning and retirement homes at us instead? Why do they not realise that mid-life crisis can be a brilliant euphemism for ‘let’s go crazy and do something we’ve never done before’ rather than the boring dross that they throw at us? PS: the editor of Mature Times responded to Jeremy’s rant by saying, ‘He is 66, so he obviously does not see himself as one of the people he wants to poke fun at, which is irrational.’ And now a rant from me! Believe it or not, the over 50s, in fact even the over 90s, LOVE to poke fun at themselves. It’s called having a sense of humour! Durr!