We’re not all Victor Meldrew

MUSTN'T speak too soon, but at long last the cult of the young seems to be on the retreat and people are beginning to recognise the value of older citizens. About time too. Ageism is rife in this country. All too often experience and the wisdom of years count for nothing.

Moan, moan, moan. Sound like Victor Meldrew, don't I? Ellen falls off the sofa laughing at him, but I suspect she's really thinking "Just like my old man!" All too true, I must admit.

However, we're not all Victor Meldrews , to quote Alastair Darling, the Social Security Secretary. He seems to have the right idea about older people. With three million over the age of 50 out of work, he wants us to be given more chance to take part time jobs or retrain for new careers.

More and more bosses are finding age equals efficiency. Listen to Phillip Dean, who employs only over 50s at Avalon Imaging, the photo laboratory he runs at Ringwood, Hants: "My office junior is 84 and my driver is in his 70s," he says. "Mature staff have the experience that youngsters will never have and that is the experience of life. Mature employees are safe. They don't think the grass is greener elsewhere. They are reliable and take less time off - and they don't come in late on Monday mornings with a hangover."

Telling words, which makes us wonder why so much of life in Britain is geared to the young. I blame the media - programme makers and editors - who cultivate a younger audience out of some misbegotten belief that their older viewers or readers are about to "fall over the edge," as they quaintly put it.

Alastair Darling wants Greg Dyke, director-general of the BBC, to promote a more positive image of the over-50s. The BBC's new boss could start with Radio 2, where I spent 12 years as a regular broadcaster and eventually was shunted to the graveyard shift in Glasgow. Requests for a daytime slot for Ellen and myself were ignored. Ageism again.

It seems people born before 1945 have been written off by the station. The golden oldies of my day - stars like Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Val Doonican, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee - have been dropped from the Radio 2 play list in favour of more contemporary music by the likes of Simply Red and Madonna. Even those dreadful punk Sex Pistols have been featured.

Those of us who make up nearly a quarter of the population will be catered for in "vintage slots" on Sunday evenings. Charming!

By the way, I see we are 'grey' people now. First they called us old age pensioners - or 'OAP' for short. Then we were known as 'the old,' followed by 'elderly' and eventually the more politically correct 'senior citizens.' Now the over-55s are described as 'grey' people, which must be the worst appendage of the lot (apart from 'wrinklies').

The only grey on my horizon is the head of the aforementioned Alastair Darling. Now he REALLY is grey. As for myself, I prefer to be one of the 'older people.' That seems to cover our age group nicely.

'Bye for now - I'll be back shortly with more superannuated thoughts.

Copyright © 2000 Derek Jameson / Retirement Matters Ltd. All rights reserved