This is Positive Ageing Week in Ireland. PAW for short. I’m not clear what it involves but the general message is that being old/older should be seen as a Good Thing.
Spare us such steaming deposits of self-deception. Old or older age is about looking and feeling worse and worse, and being nearer to dying. There’s no changing that, not even if you put umpteen smiling oldies on TV to say they’re having a wonderful time. Yes, being old is better than it was. I’m 68 and I’m in generally better health than my father was at this age. But would I rather be 58 or 48 or 38? Three guesses.
PAW might be a good idea if they got a bit more specific. A good starting point would be to outlaw age discrimination, making it illegal for example to fire practically everyone when s/he hits sixty-five. It wouldn’t be allowed if race or religion was involved, so why should employers be allowed to do dirty on grounds of age? The usual retort is ‘Yes, but as you get older you get less physically and mentally capable of doing the job’. I couldn’t agree more. So let’s devise tests that’ll establish if someone can do the job. If they can’t, there’s the door. If they can, then they’re entitled to hold onto their job, or at least to be free from dismissal on the grounds that they’ve reached a certain age.
Mind you, I like young people. They’re better-looking and generally more fun than oldies. They’re more open to new ideas, most of them, and have an appetite for life that’s enviable. But being young isn’t enough. You could be 35 and hopeless at your job or 65 and brilliant at it. Or vice versa.
As for politics...Put it this way. The new UUP leader Tom Elliott is 46, Sinn Féin’s president Gerry Adams is 62. Now close your eyes and think hard: if Elliott were a republican, would he make a better Sinn Féin leader than Adams? I rest, as the barrister said, my case.