There seems to be a groundswell of new programmes featuring “oldies” and I’m not enamoured of any of them.
Last night I watched the first of a new series called “Mary’s Silver Service”. The premise is that media “darling” Mary Portas creates an employment agency giving the over 60s the opportunity to get back in the work place.
All well and good so far-a highly admirable concept but allow me a little scepticism. First and foremost, as someone who found himself unemployed at a similar age to the show’s participants I know exactly how hard it is to find new opportunities later in life. Irrespective of how much experience, energy and ability it is easy to understand why employers are loathe to take on middle or senior management with regrettably a limited “shelf-life”.
However, in the wonderful world of “tellyland” there are apparently limitless options. Well yes there may well be if you have a production team, a celebrity presenter and the opportunity to get either your obligatory “fifteen minutes of fame” or a plug for your business.
There was the normal plethora of sob stories and cheeky “chappies”. A sweet little old lady of 92 had been diagnosed with face cancer (which thankfully had cleared by the end credits) on the way to the audition, people with depression caused by lack of purpose and those forced to give up their careers to become carers to either parents or spouses.
One of the stories featured Paul, an award winning high profile hair dresser, who retired at 65 and was missing the environment he had enjoyed for over 40 years. He is full of life, trendy, bit of a geezer and from what we saw more than capable of still creating a great “do”. What I didn’t get was why he was there at all. No doubt he must have an address book full of former clients, he still has all his kit and he certainly has the banter. Why couldn’t he just get on the “blower” and offer his services as a visiting crimper or put some ads in the local press? Oh hold on-I know-no cameras!
I was equally irked by our aforementioned little old lady doing her “job” by sitting on a Union Jack throne with a tray of cakes offering them to passing party goers. Obviously, loads more gigs like that coming up…really?
The fact of the matter is that if all you want to do is get out of the house and have a work place “experience” most of the major supermarkets, chain stores and charity shops have positions for over 60s. Yes, the jobs are unskilled. Shelf stacking, check outs, trolley collection and the like but it may well beat “Bargain Hunt” and allow some feeling of self worth. How about some volunteer work?
I’m also pretty damn sure that Ms Portas won’t be addressing the management or corporate sector. An area where years of knowledge, instinct, intuition and success count for nothing if you don’t have an MBA or similar qualification. Age discrimination law is impotent as employers or their agents have no obligation for telling applicants why they haven’t got the job. Put most ex-executives in Tescos stacking shelves and they are more likely to get clinically depressed or die of embarrassment than they will do shouting at Jeremy Kyle.
Then we have “Amazing Greys”. The premise being that young whippersnappers are set against veteran experts at sport or a particular field of endeavour. If the young’un beats the pensioner in two out of three challenges they win ten grand.
Unsurprisingly, an aging darts pro or ex Mastermind champion triumph against their youthful opponents and occasionally the old dude will get beaten on some physical activity which purely due to the natural ageing process is more than likely going to be the case.
What’s the point? Put a 25 year old with a degree in advanced mathematics up against a 25 year old with a grade C in maths GCSE and ask them do to complicated arithmetic I know who my money’s on. Or how about the teenager who cycles to work against a BMX champ and ask them to perform stunts on their bikes-anyone want to give me odds?
The concept is intrinsically flawed. Age and experience will inevitably triumph over youthful exuberance. If the senior citizen wins “yay” for the old dude and if he loses “aw” but isn’t he lovely for his age. Let’s just reward age as an achievement in itself, which it isn’t.
My least favourite of the new wave of old wave TV is “Off Their Rockers”.
Based on the age old “Candid Camera” format it puts seemingly normal elderly folks in inappropriate situations and makes them do or say wacky things in full view of the unsuspecting general public..Oh what fun!
Set ups involving mobility scooters, wheelchairs and Zimmer frames are just so amusing to the able bodied or those unfortunate enough to use them. Or watching an old “bird” talk sexy is side splitting because pensioners don’t have or more importantly shouldn’t have sex.
These programmes are patronising. They are not celebrating getting older they are simply condoning it. Nonbeige was created specifically to combat these biased and corny concepts. We are all about celebrating later life, trying new things, embracing the life still left to live not being a “dog and pony” show to younger generations.
However, there is one use of “wrinklies” I really love. The new Vodaphone advert. Featuring disparate oldsters singing along badly to new songs on their smart phones. The two old girls doing “Milkshake” gets me every time and the old guy shuffling along and channelling his inner John Newman is classic. That’s what we’re all about, being open and accepting of the new not buried in the past. It almost makes me want to change by service provider.