You don’t have to tell us at Starts at 60 why ageing matters. For over two years now, we have gone against the grain in the online world and created a site and community for over 60s. And, despite our successes, we are still met with confusion when we announce ourselves to others.
I’m often asked what I do for a job and when I say that I work for an over 60s website, I am met with confusion, even from over 50s and 60s. They say, “What do you mean?”, “Over 60s aren’t online!”, “Do you visit nursing homes?”. How wrong they are. But that isn’t even the beginning of the misconceptions about the older generation in society. It’s terrible to think that even people in their 50s consider baby boomers (they often are one) to be old and withering. Pair that with greater society’s view of ageing and we have a real problem.
Recently, the White House Conference on Ageing was held in Washington DC and Barack Obama gave an awesome opening address about ageing.
After the fact, a number of writers have come out in support of the conference, but wondering what will happen now – there won’t be another for 10 years.
Huffington Post writer Ann Brenoff wrote a very interesting piece about how #agingmatters should be an important hashtag. She said, “Isn’t it about time we reimagined what being old is? We can start with who we call “elderly,” and maybe we could stop assuming that every 66-year-old is going to retire the very moment they reached full retirement age”.
To that we say hear, hear. We just have to laugh when PR companies send us funeral insurance pieces or other topics that are much more in line with people in their 80s or 90s. Even then, many people are living well beyond 80.
Brenoff also made a great point when she said that the WHCOA did not address one of the single biggest issues facing over 60s: the absurd, outdate cultural perception that 60 is very old, and you’re written off if you dare breathe past your 60th birthday.
Just working for and seeing Starts at 60 online has made me change my own perceptions of what ageing could be. For years I felt like I put all “senior citizens” (I shudder to use the term now!) in a box and would unfairly dismiss them. But then I changed my mind. You only have to speak to one over 60 in this community to realise just how lively and vibrant they are. My stepmother said to me years ago that she always feels 21 in her mind and that one day when I’m in my 60s, I won’t feel any different to what I did back then. And perhaps that’s the best way of describing what it’s like to be an over 60. You feel like you always have, but you feel constantly disappointed that society doesn’t see you.
As you get deeper into society, you see how much more scary the number 60 is to just about everyone. Employers especially are terrified of employing someone approaching retirement age, and I believe it stems from a lack of knowledge that over 60s aren’t frail biddies.
But how do we do this? We need our children and their children to reimagine us. Tell them loud and clear that you’re 60 and are no different to them. Break the stereotypes down from a young age and never let your grandchild refer to you or anyone as an old or elderly person, pensioner or senior citizen. Put over 60s in more movies and not just the men!
As Brenoff said, she’s still waiting for a single movie or TV show to accurately portray what her life is like. And isn’t that so true. When was the last time there was even a movie or TV show close to home that was relatable for the everyday over 60?
So we want to know today: What’s one thing you think society gets wrong about over 60s? What should be done to break the stereotypes?