Old age be damned - old rage has got a much better ring to it

One of the more irritating assumptions of government (and personal trainers) is the almost pathological certainty we punters want to live to a grand old age.

Enjoying a long life and all the marvellous benefits that accrue from peeing into a bag and being ignored by retail staff is apparently why people jog and squirt coffee grounds up their blurter at yoga retreats.

It's why we're endlessly warned not to smoke or drink to excess and, of course, not do drugs because we all know if you smoke pot or rack coke, you end up robbing servos wearing a tracksuit and brogues.

The idea that some people are here for a good time, not a long time, seems to be viewed as self-destructive or self-indulgent or any other self-ish you want to throw in.

Consider, however, if this ''go hard or go home'' attitude stems not from nihilism or self-loathing but a considered decision to avoid the humiliations of old age? Social invisibility, institutionalised condescension, failing health, loneliness and borderline poverty are just a few of the crumbs left on society's plate for the elderly, now we've artfully set the table of longevity through sanitation, medicine and charity.

However, even before they've ripened for the retirement home, our aged must suffer the ignominy of being passed over in the workplace for younger, less experienced candidates. They also labour under the spectre of compulsory retirement, which - though mostly unlawful - is still enforced indirectly through a suite of subjective workplace measures.

There's also the charming medical practice known as ''age-based allocation of resources'' in which hospitals will unofficially give young patients priority over anybody with blue (or no) hair.

All hardly surprising given we live in an age that worships teenagers in their underpants and consigns the elderly to selling funeral insurance and adult nappies on Foxtel.

I'm just fascinated as to when the tipping point will be reached and the worldwide trend of an ageing population sparks a worldwide trend of resumed respect and engagement.


When the majority of us on the planet are old, surely the authors of culture will see there's a buck to be earned making these people feel like they're still on the planet (or maybe even to help them forget)?

Traditional societies recognised the imperative of revering the elderly, else the young and dumb weren't socialised to support the aged and their accrued knowledge between the end of their productive lives and infirmity (when, admittedly, they were often speared or abandoned).

We've lost the stomach for euthanising the infirm but also for employing their wisdom because, hey, we can just Google.

I'd love to live in a world where there's an old couple giggling on the bus, dialled off their nuts and it would be safe for them to do so.

It'd surely give us something to look forward to because I know the prospect of golf, sing-a-longs and doctor's appointments are not filling me with anticipation.

But if the doc was also dropping some goodies on us? At least our sunset years might involve a few wildly inappropriate sunrises before we shuffle off to the great certainty.

This article Old age be damned - old rage has got a much better ring to it was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.