We have an increasingly ageing population, yet age discrimination is still a big problem. I have written previously about how a 50-something former sales manager experienced ageism routinely at interviews. When I worked in the NHS an employee was harassed until she “retired” and she was not given the respect her experience should have demanded. I later saw her happily working somewhere where she was treated as an equal. When looking after an elderly lady I saw that she was often treated despicably by some nurses, who could be patronising and uncaring.
Indeed when I went into hospital for the first time (I suffered convulsions from stress after working seven days a week doing three jobs) I was moved onto the geriatric ward for the night. The experience was a shock. There were no call buttons for assistance. There was one nurse to cover the whole ward and he was never present. A doctor did an examination that I found too intimate without warning and without a witness. There was nothing to drink and no one to help me go to the toilet, so I had to hold it until morning. It’s easy to see how the elderly could be abused in these circumstances. One nurse even commented that it was nice to see a young face on the ward for a change. Inexplicably, the hospital later received a 5 star rating.
The horse-racing pundit John McCirick, 73 has this month launched legal action against Channel 4, who he said sacked him for a younger replacement. On Radio 1, Chris Moyles, then 38, was an excellent presenter, always entertaining. He was replaced by Nick Grimshaw, then 27, who I find dull. A colleague had commented that Moyles was “too old”. Last year a 52 year old won an age discrimination case against his employers who replaced him with a 15 year old who they could hire for less. The year before that, a BBC Countryfile presenter won her case against being sacked because of her age.
HelpAge International has launched a petition which I have contributed to. It urges the government to press for a UN convention protecting the rights of older people. So far over 8 000 people have signed it.
Lets stop thinking that the passing of the years is some sort of problem which we must “protect” ourselves against. Although having said that I admit, I still want to look younger through natural means by using cream to stop UV damage and dehydration and doing as much exercise as I can. According to research, exercising vigorously for more than 40 minutes results in a younger-looking appearance over time.
However, when I start to look older I believe I will embrace it. I would rather look old than scary. I will fight for the right to be seen as experienced rather than due for retirement, and I will defend myself against ageism, not wrinkles.