New metaphors for old


A report published this week by Aon Consulting noted that "there is a vast pool of mentally agile people with great life and work experience over the age of sixty, and industries will be missing a trick if they do not capitalise on their productive potential."

A few weeks ago, sixty-eight year old Robin Knox-Johnston entered Cowes harbour having successfully sailed round the world single handed.

"I don't think the age worked for or against me. … "There was never a time when I thought I could have done better when I was younger. I don't think it makes a difference at all." … he said, and since he undertook and successfully completed the same task when he was only Thirty - he should know.

Unusually fit, he may be, but he isn't superhuman, merely continuing the progress of his life in a pattern he laid out for himself.

Muscles and joints and brains have always required effort to sustain them in healthy condition throughout the whole of life's span. Nowadays, the technology and the materials to extend useful life exist but the relevant societal psychology and philosophy lag way behind.

The received wisdom that people should be more careful about how much they do as they age puts a damper on people's lives for no good reason. Upping exercise programmes, spending more time tussling with ideas and eating smaller amounts, keep bodies fit, minds alert and extend longevity, but what's the point if society won't allow longevity to work?

Age is a continuum. It starts wriggly and spermy and ends wriggly and wormy.

The common conception that once human beings reach a certain point on the crest of life's span it will be downhill all the rest of the way, is wrong.

Barring accidents - which can happen anywhere and at any time - a hell of a long road traversing rough and smooth terrain connects the two lots of wrigglers. And the last stretch contains just as many rough and smooth zones, ascents, plateaus and descents, as will be found on all other sections that went before it.

Yet because of entrenched ideas and outmoded beliefs, older members of society are left to cover that final stretch on absurdly unbalanced skateboards fitted with spoke-wheels that are bound to collapse at the first serious jolt, even though carborundum wheels that can take the strain and sustain balance have long been readily available.

When presented with such a ridiculous handicap it's no wonder that people teeter and fall during the last stages of life's span.

The best way to prove that the common stereotype of old age wrong, is to stop using worn-out ageist metaphors and build better skate boards!

Once that's done we shall all be able to zoom along together and only get stopped short in our tracks when the road itself gives out.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.