Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Shock, horror. Older women not drinking cocoa by the fire.

Last week a woman broke her own record for being the oldest woman to climb Mount Everest. She is 73. (If you missed it, you can read about it here.)

And two women, Beryl and Betty, won a Sony award for the most entertaining programme - they are 86 and 90. Regrettably, it is only available in Humberside.

So - are we meant to be surprised that older women are not sitting in a corner talking about arthritis? That they can be fit, and funny?

I think climbing Everest is a huge achievement for anyone, men and women, aged 18, 44, or 73. It is seriously high, the air is whisper-thin, and the weather feels like a conspiracy. I can think of men of 34, thick-waisted and puffy-lunged, who struggle with two flights of stairs - sometimes due to lifestyle decisions but often the result of the health cards they've been dealt. Being healthy enough to climb a mountain at 73 has less to do with gender than luck on the health front and the time and enthusiasm to keep fit.

And as for the amazement that older women can by funny - scroll take a look at the cartoon in the Daily Mail here. Is it okay to laugh AT older women - but a shock to suggest with might laugh WITH them? The publicity has concentrated on their age, with no serious look at why they are funny, and what they can bring to our understanding of humour and why it works.

Surely it's time to stop stereotyping older people. Some are frail, and ill, and need support. Some are fit, and run marathons. Some are forgetful. Some grow wonderful roses. Some break their hips and grumble for a few weeks. Some are wonderfully funny and tell great stories. Surely it's time to celebrate the talents of older people, rather than this surprise when they don't conform to the drooling-by-the-fireside-with-their-cocoa image?


  1. Great post, and very well said! Who said old age has to be all about rocking yourself back and forth in a rocking chair while knitting and slurping on your cocoa?!
    Good for them, I say, and can only hope I have as much stamina as the Mount Everest lady at that age! :-)

  2. Do you know what, Jo, I love this! I perish the thought of becoming old and fuddy duddy - can't see it ever happening though - the fuddy duddy bit, anyway. My Grandma was amazing and still went out dancing and on holiday into her 80s. She said once that she hated that she was bought boring birthday cards with flowers on and that she liked cards that made her laugh - I bought her funny ones from then on!

  3. It's possible that whatever age you are..10 years on you're going to look back at yourself as you are now and wonder why you didn't do what you wanted to do back then, when you were so much younger, fitter, cleverer, wealthier or whatever......without in any way detracting from the wonderful things other people do, I say celebrate YOURSELF and your achievements..there's little point in comparing oneself to others when we don't have equal opportunities nor circumstances all through our lives and if drinking cocoa and knitting is your idea of heaven, well, Good For You, go for it! for me, running fast towards motto is,,"it's never too late for another adventure!" Bring it on! Wheres my banjo? Where did all these cats come from? And since when did the Daily Mail ever say anything that wasn't a load of rubbish?

  4. Good to know this has touched a nerve - and Anonymous (who I think is probably Lynn) I agree that if cocoa and knitting is your thing - then go for it. But retreating into cocoa as a default position is the bit that feels sad. As for your cats ...

  5. What makes me angry is when newspapers refer to older ladies as, for example "Grandmother, Susan Smith". Several years ago a friend in her 60s had her first book accepted for publication. She was delighted when the local newspaper came to interview her but not so happy with the headline that said, "Local Grandma has book published"

  6. My mum is one of the youngest old people I know. I struggle to keep up with her sometimes! I have heard of Beryl ad Betty by the way because they were talking about them on Radio One!