Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Flying Free of the Pigeonhole

If you have been staying mindful of the all-important Pledge, you’ll remember that it starts with a promise to act as young as you feel. “Great, Larry,” you may be groaning. “That’s fantastic for anyone who still feels twenty-years-old inside. But what about those of us feeling exactly as old as we are? Isn’t it time for us to stop pretending and settle down to bingo clubs and bridge evenings from here on in?” 
I’m going to refer you to the second part of the Pledge here. Age is just a number, and the label of “old” simply a perception. Those activities and outlooks popularly associated with people of a certain age rarely amount to more than lazy stereotypes. Society is full of folks who are intent on pigeonholing the older generation and retirees for their own comfort. But it really is for no one else but you to decide how you want to approach your life.
To quote the leading educational theorist, Michael Apple, “If you think of yourself as old, you subconsciously come to accept the ageist attitudes of others.” So you see it’s crucial you don’t let younger generations trying to make themselves feel younger talk you into viewing yourself as ancient. 
Sex comes into this, of course (it usually does with me somewhere!). There is no set age when one should stop desiring it, enjoying it, or talking about it. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about still enjoying your sex life. The rest of society shouts about it – why shouldn’t you? Sure, our children, grandchildren and the sniggering young shop assistant at the chemist who grudgingly sells us condoms and/or lubricant may not like the idea of us doing “that,” but they’ll have to get used to it. My advice? Be the opposite of apologetic.
Keep in mind that in many ways, retirement is a better time for sex than ever before. The kids have left home and for some this may be the first time you’ve ever truly had the chance to enjoy having the house to yourselves. You can make the most of the time your freedom has given you to nurture an existing relationship, or find someone new. Alternatively you can just get to know yourself a little bit better. Yes, taboo I know, but there’s no reason any of these shouldn’t be an option any longer. 
And I’ve got more good news for us. The 2008 US Census Bureau Report predicted that the proportion of people over 65 will outnumber children under five by 2018. There’s now no need to hark back longingly to the Baby Boomer heydays in the time when we were truly groovy – as part of the fastest growing demographic, we are now in a new golden age of aging. 
Society will soon have to start noticing us, and start seeing us as more than mere stereotypes.  To accelerate this change we need to act like the energetic, empowered and sexually active people we are. Let’s join the growing number of people rejecting the ageist attitudes that words such as “retirement” and “senior” have come to embody. Fly free of the pigeonhole and join the Grey Revolution!
Next week I’ll be discussing why those approaching “retirement” with apprehension don’t have to see it as a dirty word.

Note: When this is released and we tweet about it possible hash tag @will_skidelsky at The Guardian. He recently wrote an article about how taste shouldn’t dictate preference: