OAPs. Geriatrics. Pensioners. Yes, they are an awful lot of terms used to refer to the going generations, otherwise known as old folk, most of which are colloquial inventions by us, the coming generations. I am like most of you who will be reading: young (we know), healthy (we hope) and inspired (we dream). A hefty proportion of these coming generations will have adopted the mentality of the advantaged human, recognising the limited opportunity we have to enjoy the prime of life and build up the memories for the slowing pace in the distant future. This, after all, is a time to be celebrated; various young people exercise this entitlement with different degrees of escapism.
Friends of mine are quite prone to the odd drinking binge every now and again, spicing up their alcoholic adventures using a variety of concoctions and a choice of qualified locations (pub, pub and, yes, pub). Others can be more creative in their direction of fun, preferring to practise their hobbies, such as woodcraft or mural painting – but the majority at our age are undoubtedly enthusiastic when it comes to getting out of the house/apartment and painting the town red, or green as unfavourable circumstances have been known to reveal.
In retrospect there are certainly occasions when I have been on the wrong end of a Saturday night bender – once engaging in an argument with a community support officer about the misallocation of public taxes to insufficient services like theirs – but the overall portrait of youth is a pleasant one. The things that please me most about being young and free (as free as you can be in any democracy) are the little lifts (not tic-tacs) you feel from simply being energetic and aware of the gift we are given. Here’s the point, however, where I get whinging. In spite of my progressive love for youth and the freedom it gives us I’m strongly disinclined the other way, in regards to the product of the ageing process – old folk.
My biggest indictment of society at the moment is the state of the elderly – hatred for chavs is a cyclical condition that comes and goes according to the price of Special Brew. What grates against me in relation to the going generations is the blindingly obvious disparity between the two extremes of age; the crudest aspects of this divide between the young and the old become especially apparent in the following scenarios that have recently driven me to denounce the crime of nature that is ageing.
Firstly, let me begin by saying how painful it is for me to compromise my brisk walking pace when I’m sticking to a schedule, let alone casually strolling the streets while shopping. Okay, so it’s not physically excruciating, but it’s very frustrating when you’re trying to navigate through teeming masses of mixed-age people, only to find yourself at the back of an arterial clog formed of a gaggle of arch-backed seniors. The worst factor about this farcical pedestrian palaver is the imprecision governing the blockage’s footsteps; are they going left, right, side to side or backwards? I’m constantly on alert in case one of them breaks ranks and provides me with an opening to run for freedom. What makes me appear thuggish in this context is the recurring need to barge my way through – I don’t need to barge, but I have a minimum speed that surpasses their maximum, so you do the math.
Next I’m faced with the other incessant battle in my war against the ageing process: queue retardation. As a Briton I should be fine with queuing for my groceries and so on; but as sods law would have it there is a noticeably punitive catch even after I’ve accepted I will have to wait to spend yet more of my student loan. The queues I’m encountering on a daily basis in Sainsbury’s, for example, are dominated by the marching old. I was stood in a queue for a carton of apple juice for what seemed like a decade before I got to the till. The cause of my agonising wait was one old man who could only turn if he copied the classic three-point turn you apply to driving. To make matters worse he was clearly confused about his purchases and was turning on the spot like a wind dial caught between two opposing breezes. Why can’t we have an age-based system of priority, where the young and quick are served first? The older customers won’t mind – to them a snail travels like a Mercedes with nitrous fuel injection.
Finally I bring you happily along to the third phase of my gripe for the aged people: fear of becoming. Yes, I won’t lie, I’m actually afraid of ageing past 60 – though my father is steadily heading into his mid-60s and is by far one of the healthiest men I know. The frightening range of documented (at the doctor’s office) health issues, coupled with the general pangs of sluggishness and short-term memory that many older people suffer from is the culmination of years of hard work and social strife, so it’s no wonder I’m absolutely uninspired by the prospect of eventually becoming one of the wrinklies. This back-of-the-mind paranoia is a subtle reminder of the humility of being human and thus I am a fervent advocate for the freedom of youth and insist that all of you out there who are lucky enough to be under-40 (a year, month, week or day under 40 is not exactly lucky, mind) should live the lively part of your lives to the full.
Now, in keeping with what I’ve been protesting about, you might assume that I am a malevolent, radical ageist who would love for a mandatory ‘switch-off’ to be implemented in the future by some sort of pro-youth despotism. Well, you’d be foolish to think so, as I’m actually very proud of the old ones who I’ve been lucky enough to know – my late grandmother, Mabel, who taught me to be headstrong and have pride (too right old girl) and my ex-boss, whose cockney wit never failed to make me crack a rib laughing. The reality of it is not a matter of specifics, but of a fear of a concept. When I see the old folk I see myself in the future – frail and forlorn. But old age isn’t an apocalypse – just a pain in the arse.