The ageing population means we are going to have to work for longer. I won’t be eligible to retire until I am 67 under today’s rules, but by the time that actually happens that number is more likely to be 70. That’s fine, provided my mind stays sharp, but it won’t be so easy for people who have to do more physically demanding jobs.
However, if older people are going to be contributing to the economy, society is going to have to stop behaving as though age and ageing are abnormal and that showing any signs of getting older is shameful and deplorable.
My younger sister recently went to see a doctor for a full check-up. She is 53 years old and physically fit but she wanted to check her cholesterol, blood pressure levels, etc. After giving her a clean bill of health, the GP, a woman, told her that she was “very pretty” but that it was a “real shame that she wasn’t doing anything with her face”, before offering to get rid of all the “shadows” and drooping with the help of fillers and Botox at her private clinic.
Luckily, my sister is not only physically fit but also mentally sound, and she did not allow these unsolicited comments to get her down. That is not to say that since she has been visiting me here in Spain she hasn’t been her standing in front of the mirror and stretching her facial skin back and saying things like, “there, that’s me again”. If it had happened to me then I would have either said something to her or complained. It is one thing to get advice if you ask for it, but quite another to be told that your face is pitiful or a shame because it looks as though it is ageing… which it is.
This morning I clicked on the fashion section of the Guardian newspaper on my iPad and saw an article entitled “Invisible woman: What to wear to work in midlife”. The author talks about what she wears to work (she is 59, a good few years younger than retirement age) and asks other middle-aged women about their work outfits. I quote from the article: “I don’t think I consciously try to dress younger – but I am very aware of my skin compared to theirs, so I never wear short sleeves and always trousers rather than skirts. I’d never go swimming with girls from work – and weekends are a relief when I am with people who won’t notice if my arms are a bit loose!”
Ashamed of your arms? Not wearing skirts? It’s about time the tide turned, don’t you think? Age should be a badge of honour we wear with pride, not something we feel ashamed of!