Sunday, 16 December 2012

Archbishop on elderly stereotypes

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the elderly are victims of stereotyping – as he himself is stereotyped no doubt.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed for an end to damaging stereotypes of older people, which he says have created a climate in which they suffer abuse.

In his final speech in the House of Lords, Dr Rowan Williams said attitudes of "contempt and exasperation" towards the ageing population were contributing to a range of abuse, from patronising and impatient behaviour to physical mistreatment.

I don't yet class myself as elderly, but presumably I shall reach that stage one day. No doubt I'll have my concerns, but I'm not convinced that being stereotyped will be high on the list.

Health - yes.
General welfare - yes.
The price of potatoes - yes.
Being stereotyped - no.

I find ideas such as the Archbishop's difficult to assess. There is a huge temptation to class them as typical of Guardian-reading pillocks - but that's a stereotype too. For all I know, the Archbishop doesn't even read the Guardian. 

How do you prove or disprove stuff like this? In many ways it simply comes across as a somewhat bald assertion, although I suspect it’s not and no doubt there are surveys and studies behind it. However, modern studies and surveys usually have a promotional angle, so one is reluctant to rely on those which aren’t mostly graphs.

The Archbishop says :-

"We tolerate a very eccentric view of the good life or the ideal life as one that can be lived only for a few years between, say, 18 and 40."


I don’t see things that way. The years between 18 and 40 can be both exhilarating and difficult – it depends. Embarking on careers, relationships and finding a personal philosophy or a house can be a breeze or a nightmare. As with all other periods of life, it varies from individual to individual.

Physically we are at or around our peak between 18 and 40, but at 40 we still have about 25 years or more of working life. This prospect may be wildly exciting or it may not.

In my case, retirement has been good, but comparing it to other periods in my life is comparing apples and pears. Bringing up the children was good too, a real privilege in some ways, although it didn’t always feel like it at the time, because parents worry don’t they? And teenagers give them reasons to worry don't they? But it passes.

So what about the elderly, those the Archbishop thinks are victims of stereotyping? Well we have to define the state of being elderly don’t we? There are some negatives to being elderly, so our language needs general terms if we are to identify these issues.

The elderly people I knew well, such as my parents, have all died, but I don’t see any of them as victims of stereotyping. Old age is certainly problematic for many, but this has become almost inevitable when so many of us live well beyond our physical and mental resources.

That’s not stereotyping – that’s a reality of modern life. Stereotyping may even help deal with it – as best we can which currently isn’t impressive, but that’s surely not down to stereotyping per se. 

Until the serious decline sets in though, life can be good for the junior elderly at least. As I write this, I've just tossed another log on the fire and I have an after dinner coffee which may be followed later by a glass of something warming. As for tomorrow – probably a walk along the Monsal Trail followed by coffee in Bakewell. Next week will be Christmas with the family.

What’s not to like?


Nigel Sedgwick said...

Stereotyping is part of the mechanism by which the socialist (and communist) state governs. There are not enough governors to deal with all the individuals, so they must muddle through somehow.

And Williams as archbishop was nothing if not a socialist/communist.

Maybe (now he is becoming just an individual person) he realises there is more to life and society than being governed. But I need much more evidence before believing in his personal revelation and conversion.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

An irrelevant man who has spoken against injustice - but feebly.

Anyway, yesterday I had a chat with local vagrant 'Dick', an elderly man who lives in a tent hidden in a local wood or sometimes in a disused churchyard. Not seen him for a while. He is well known around town and often supported by shop staff, policepersons & passers by. At one time his tent had a TV and a generator - but the council cleared all that away - and the staff raised funds for a new tent and Dick carries on. Dick is
well-read and an interesting man to talk to, a bit of a character with an interesting slant on
philosophy -" I stink therefore I am".

No doubt one day Dick will be found dead in his tent, but somehow I think he would prefer it that way - one of the last independents.

Demetrius said...

There are times I rather like playing up to the stereotype and then to go out of it in a way that winds people up. All part the days lack of work. I remember the Monsal Trail very well, albeit in a carriage with either a Jubilee or a Black Five on the front of the train heading for Manchester Central.

A K Haart said...

Nigel - "Stereotyping is part of the mechanism by which the socialist (and communist) state governs."

Yes, and oddly enough they use it but decry it at the same time.

Roger - I think Dick has found the only way to be independent and die in his own bed.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - I wonder how many of us play up to a stereotype? Quite a few, at least to some degree.

One of our number also remembers travelling along the Monsal Trail to Manchester. The tunnels are open now, which makes it a good walk.

James Higham said...

I find ideas such as the Archbishop's difficult to assess. There is a huge temptation to class them as typical of Guardian-reading pillocks - but that's a stereotype too.

With much to recommend it.

A K Haart said...

James - (: