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Older woman doing ballet with instructor.

It's high time to change the negative public image of later life

Old age is often portrayed as a negative experience, especially in the media.

In this guest article, blogger Grandma Williams asks whether we need to reconsider the way we talk about and think about later life.

The public image of later life is negative and seriously wrong.

But who is responsible for correcting it? Who is responsible for creating a more positive one?  

Anyone? I doubt it. And it is needed. Badly. Time for a campaign? Time to ask the important question:  

'Why is there no national push, no PR, emphasising and celebrating the success we have achieved – an extra 10 bonus years of happy active life for the majority of us?'  

The media, and sadly some charities and the NHS, are only interested in doom, gloom and problems. But the negative image this promulgates is of no help to anyone else. Indeed, it has serious adverse effects on the public image of later years and a depressive effect on older people themselves.

Where is the cash – and the will – for promoting the positive view of old age?  

The current doom and gloom image of old age is wrong. Yet it is regularly promoted. Plagues of Alzheimer’s, dementia, bed blockers and lonely oldies grab the headlines and fill the media columns. 

Sadly, some of the worst PR for this sad side comes from the very people who are trying to help: caring charities and the NHS itself. Perhaps it is not in their interest to promote good news, particularly if it may affect their financial income. 

The result? Old age is something to be feared. Old people are seen as burdens, and if you are old you are made to feel stigmatised. Business ignores us. 

But it isn’t correct, is it? The majority of older people are happier than they have ever been. Rusty knees, new hips, deaf aids and cataracts are taken in their stride and life continues very enjoyably. Families, friends, new interests, volunteering, caring, grandchildren, even new romances, fill the days. Indeed, most of us feel very lucky. We made it! And we have now been given bonus time.  

Why, why, why, is this not being said? It is a great achievement! We should be crowing about it. When I talk or write about the joy of later years it is received with bemusement, as something unusual. 

In today’s world, a long life with many happy serene years are a new gift to us all. 

Imagine if we had posters with smiling people welcoming old age, looking forward to a special time of life. Hard earned, happy years for all of us to enjoy.  

  

Imagine if we had posters with smiling people welcoming old age, looking forward to a special time of life. Hard earned, happy years for all of us to enjoy.
Businesses could take advantage of a huge opportunity 

Suppose, businesses learned to recognise this new and growing active market. If leisure activities, shops, restaurants and hotels seized the chance to cater to us, advertise to us, positively not patronisingly. That age was not seen as a disease to avoid, but a fulfilling life stage for us all. 

You can conceive of all sorts of fun media campaigns alerting everyone to the positives of the third age. Freedom. Serenity. Time to explore whole new worlds, lie back and read or contemplate the delightful nonsenses life has revealed.  

Rust? Yes. And a fair bit of fraying at the edges, but we are a tough lot. We are survivors, we laugh it off. We have made it! Pride. 

A major campaign of this sort would transform us all. Ageing anticipated happily, grey hair welcomed, older people valuing themselves and younger ones maybe realising it is their future too. Could solve many of today’s problems? 

Ageing anticipated happily, grey hair welcomed, older people valuing themselves and younger ones maybe realising it is their future too.

Why isn’t it being done? Why are the negative statistics wheeled out? The sob stories? Why are we not shouting about the great successes we have had in transforming later years? At my birth 83 years ago, someone my age would be blind with cataracts, crippled with arthritic hips and knees, probably semi-paralysed by a stroke and certainly deaf. Me? Here I am, new career as a blogger, remarried at 74 and still travelling the world. Not just me, millions of us. Loving it. 

Whose job should it be to do this sensible PR? Where would the cash and will come from?  

These are important questions. The present media and funding systems do not deal in 'Good news'. Yet it is obvious that it is exactly what we all need to be reminded of. 

This blog is a challenge to all charities, the Government, the NHS and of course the media. Reverse tack please. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and you could well produce some striking results.

Guest blogs do not necessarily represent views of Ageing Better.

Photo of Joyce Williams AKA Grandma Williams.
Joyce
Williams
Former Physiotherapist and now blogger on matters of ageing