A white haired lady stands in a summer-lit garden, with a serious expression on her face. She is holding a placard up to the camera, and on it is written in large words – ‘I’m not ready to die just yet.’ The ‘not’ is heavily underlined: the lady is making a point.
She is Mrs Ann Lloyd-Sherlock,(80-something) mother of Peter Lloyd-Sherlock (52) Professor of social policy and international development at the University of East Anglia. He specialises in the social protection, health and the wellbeing of older people in developing countries.
He is commenting on the recent report by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) calling for action to tackle ageist attitudes and undo the media clichés that promote them. He said that he didn’t think that ‘we are getting to grips with it as an issue.’ [i]
He is so right. RSPH research found that almost a third of the public believe that loneliness is a inevitable part of growing old and a quarter of 18 to 34 year olds think it is normal for older people to be unhappy and depressed. Two out of five 18 to 24 year olds believe there is no way to escape dementia as you age. Typical ageist thinking …
The RSPH is calling for a number of actions, including an end to the use of the term “anti-ageing” in the cosmetics industries and for Facebook to include age as a protected characteristic in its community standards on hate speech. The cosmetics industry won’t change until customers stop buying, although it does make you wonder who really believes claims that certain products can’ stop the signs of ageing.’
In my book, ‘What’s Age Got To Do With It?’ I quote an expert who said that at the heart of the problem is the acceptance of the doctrine of the perfection of youth. Yet, he observed, ‘We possess culture because our ancestors had the wisdom to distinguish vigour from value. They saw, as we so often do not, beyond mere physical strength and grasped the virtues hidden within the necessity of growing old.’
Perhaps we ought to teach more on what God said to Samuel, when he was looking for a successor to Saul and judging Jesse’s sons by their looks. God said to him: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”