A mobile phone company has been ordered to pay £71,000 compensation to its former sales manager for age discrimination and harassment after it ‘chipped away’ at him so he would resign and make way for younger employees. Mark Jones was told by his line manager, Philip Hesketh, that he was undynamic, something that was included in younger people’s characteristics: desirable colleagues or candidates were “high energy”, “energetic” and “youthful”. Interviewing candidates for a job Mr Hesketh, himself bald-headed said, ‘I don’t want a team of bald-headed 50-year-old men – I want to change the dynamics.” (Mr Jones has a full head of hair, see https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11731283/Sales-director-61-going-sacked-wins-71-000-payout-age-discrimination.html) On that basis perhaps Mr Hesketh should seriously consider his own position. He could also take the time to hear about older people (some with hair, some without) who fairly fizz with energy and dynamism.
People like my friend Dr Jennifer Bute, who was a senior GP and Fellow of the Royal College until diagnosed with dementia some 16 years ago. Now 78, Jennifer lives in a retirement village in Cheltenham. When I went to visit recently I was invited to have a coffee while I waited as ‘Dr Bute is still in a residents’ committee meeting’. I forgot to ask her how many other committees she was serving on. She moved into the village a year ago and already knows everybody and helps wherever she can. A recent article in the village’s newsletter notes, ‘What drove her to the medical profession is now fuelling her in her retirement. She has spent the last decade working tirelessly to dismantle stereotypes about dementia and to help improve dementia care in retirement homes and medical settings.’ Before Covid-19 struck she and I drove all over the country to give talks about dementia, and she also spoke at conferences of medical professionals as well as training carers in residential care homes. She still has a busy schedule; she produces materials for her website, and a couple of days after my visit was to be collected at 7.30 in the morning. Wherever she goes she takes copies to sell of the book we wrote together in 2018 ‘Dementia from the Inside: a doctor’s personal journey of hope.’ (It’s since been translated into Chinese.) We’d taken the lift to her flat on the second floor, but coming down she opened a door and said, ‘we’ll take the stairs down.’
You might have read about the four starring actresses with a combined age of 335 who are making a new film. Jane Fonda, 85, Lily Tomlin, 83, Rita Moreno 91, and Sally Field, 76 have between them five Oscars, 13 Emmys, three Grammys and three Tony awards. None of them have any intention of retiring or stepping back.
The film, ’80 for Brady’ is a comedy based on the true story of a group of friends who formed a club devoted to Tom Brady, the New England Patriots star quarterback. After they became widows, the women would gather regularly to watch the games. In the film the characters set off on a road trip to the 2017 Super Bowl and to see their hero in person for the first time.
Jane Fonda said that Hollywood bosses should take note. ‘We’re lucky because we’re old at a time when older people, mostly women, are the fastest-growing demographic in the world. Entertainment is a business, and it has this market…’ Brady appears in the film, and said, ‘The opportunity to work alongside these four amazingly talented women has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’
Then there’s the former policeman who started a new career as a cabin crew member on his 63rd birthday. For Peter Wanless, now 68, airports and flights were always the best part of a holiday. Still in transport, you may have seen the interview with Britain’s oldest lorry driver, Brian Wilson from Sheffield, who passed his annual health MOT and is happy getting up at 4.00 am for his 12 hour shifts delivering to various places around the country.
And of course, evangelist David Hatthaway is still arranging and speaking at meetings in Europe. Aged 90, he has no intention of stopping.
There are so many more I could write about; I’ve mentioned many in ‘What’s Age Got To Do With It?’ People who have absorbed ageist attitudes, like Philip Hesketh, tend to end up in unhappier, less healthy old age than those who don’t. It isn’t all down to having good physical health – Jennifer is an example of that. As the slogan goes, ‘Age isn’t a number, it’s an attitude.’ Hair or no hair.