WHY I SMILE AT CHILDREN or ageism is alive and well.


I am ‘gutted’ as my grandson would say. For the second time in a month I turn up at the Bank without the necessary documentation that I had prepared carefully on the kitchen table.

When I arrived back home I burst into tears. Not because of the event but because of the thought of what the bank manager and staff would think of me. I am used to these lapses and am learning how to minimising them. I remember how my now deceased friend panicked in these circumstances and on the whole I manage them with serenity. At nearly 82 I have been coping reasonably well with the decline of certain faculties. But a recent experience made me feel worthless.
At a conference coffee break, a recently retired academic knowing that I am a U3A (University of the Third Age)  member announced that she had joined the organisation. She proceeded to describe in the most vicious ageist terms the behaviour of the members of her group. I could not believe my ears when she ascribed mockingly to each one of them the most ageist, prejudiced characteristics that I have come across in my 20 years of being interested in the representation of old women.

It left me speechless trying to understand what was going on and the meaning of this diatribe.

The episode did make a mark on me. If an old woman academic could perceive us old women in this way, talk about us in this way what do other people think when they see my white hair, my sometimes unsteady gait, my forgetfulness?

Maybe that is why, in the tube, in the street I smile at little children who look at me with interest.

disrespect or incompetence?

For the last two years I have been running a monthly film show at our local cinema for our U3A in Brent film group. As this group had started as a smaller Older Women in Film Group I wanted to pursue the policy of showing only films that feature old people.

The cinema is  extremely helpful and the audience very appreciative. However on occasions films are screened in the wrong aspect and communication is not always as efficient as it could be.

Today’s event made my blood boil. I had requested a certain film to be shown at certain date with 3 months notice for a very specific reason. I was advised today that the film I asked for is not available and they programmed another film instead… and that they did not consult me because they had a deadline to meet.

I perceive this as a definite example of ageism/sexism. It was dismissive of my role as a programmer and of the audience.   I can hear some of my friends argue that it was sheer incompetence or that I am over sensitive. But would this have happened if I was  a man   or a young woman  who programmes the films  introduces them, writes the film notes and leads the  discussion?