Throughout our lives, we’ll all have to deal with a number of major changes. While a few of those transformations might be more pleasant than others, the aging process itself can be seen in both a positive and negative light. And British newspaper columnist Suzanne Moore had to face down some unkind comments regarding that very subject in 2019.
Born in July 1958 Moore grew up in Ipswich, England, before making a big decision as a teenager. At that point, she abandoned her school studies and embarked upon an intriguing personal journey that took her around the world. Indeed, over the next few years, the young Moore found herself in countries as far-flung as India and the U.S.
And during Moore’s time in New York, she developed an interest in psychoanalysis, which in turn led her to return to England. When she came back to her homeland, she enrolled at Middlesex University as a psychology student. But after a short period, the Ipswich native decided to change her chosen subject to cultural studies instead.
Off the back of that switch, Moore eventually earned her college degree ahead of starting a career in journalism. And now she has a column in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, in which she opened up about an encounter with ageism in August 2019. Moore didn’t hold back in her response, either.
As we grow older, our bodies will go through some significant changes. For instance, during our younger years, we normally experience growing pains before facing the trials and tribulations of puberty. Then, as we start to reach a certain age a few decades later, the transformations seem to begin again.
From aching joints to weakening eyesight, a lot of us will have to deal with these issues in our later years. Sadly, though, this process has often led younger people to mock their elders, which can compound the situation. So with that in mind, an interesting project was undertaken on the subject in August 2019.
The research was conducted by an insurance company named SunLife, which is a well-known firm in Britain. Its services cover things such as funeral plans, home insurance and life insurance. And several famous faces from the U.K. have been featured in the business’ advertising campaigns.
Titled “Ageist Britain?” the project saw researchers talk to 4,000 British residents, as well as looking at behavior on social media. And at the end of the process, the final report stretched to close to 25 pages, with SunLife outlining its goals at the start of the document.
“We’re shining a light on the issue of casual ageism and the impact it has on all of us,” read the introduction. “We want to encourage people to reconsider the language they use, and to challenge outdated perceptions of what it means to be over 50. By doing this we hope to finally retire casual ageism in the U.K.”
From there, the report then made a somewhat sobering point on the subject. According to the researchers’ findings about social media, certain derogatory expressions for older people proved to be quite prevalent. But as the study explained, these issues extend far beyond our computer screens.
“Casual ageism is part of our everyday language,” the report continued. “It’s so ingrained that many ageist remarks are often overlooked, missed or simply accepted. Many sentiments are subtle and can even be well-intentioned. But the truth is that ‘ageist’ language, however casual, can have a huge impact on our perception of life after 50 and the way we treat people we meet.”
Following that strongly worded introduction, the study then delved into its findings. And as readers soon discovered, the figures proved somewhat damning. Indeed, just under 40 percent of the people involved in this report revealed that they’d made ageist remarks previously. But the troubling numbers didn’t end there.
According to the study, close to a third of people over 50 have dealt with ageism at their places of employment in the United Kingdom. In addition, numerous other individuals have faced similar issues while visiting stores and using public transport. Unsurprisingly, these encounters have left many in an uncomfortable position.
On that note, the report went on to outline another shocking statistic. It read, “More than two-thirds (68 percent) of over 50s say the ageism apparent in everyday life has made them feel less valued.” And in light of those figures, one of SunLife’s famous supporters couldn’t help but respond during an interview.
As we previously mentioned, several U.K. television personalities have worked with SunLife in the past. They include Carol Vorderman, and she helped out when the company compiled the report. “For more than two-thirds of those who are over 50 to feel badly affected by casual ageism is unacceptable,” Vorderman told The Guardian in August 2019.
“This is one of the final taboos to smash through,” Vorderman added. Moreover, further eye-opening figures cropped up elsewhere in the study. For example, when looking at how great a proportion of residents in certain cities across Britain confessed to holding ageist views, in the likes of Manchester and Birmingham the total was around the 30 percent mark.
As for the worst offender, close to 50 percent of the residents in Southampton revealed that they’d been ageist at some point. That number was in stark contrast to Bristol, as the city boasted the lowest proportion at 20 percent. After bringing all this information to light, the report then reached its conclusion.
“To change the way we think about aging, we need to change the way we talk about aging,” the study stated. “Until we consciously make a step to change the way we talk and look at life after 50, ageism will only become more pervasive.” From there, one last point was raised.
“We should celebrate our age and experience,” the report concluded. “Ultimately, we’re all going to grow older and the truth is we’re never as old as our years. We’re as old as we feel. So, let’s start paying closer attention to the language we use and hear. And when you see or hear ageism in action, call it out and question the person.”
Vorderman certainly agreed with those sentiments, and she touched upon her own experiences. The British TV host is set to celebrate her 59th birthday in December 2019 and believes that over 50s have a lot to look forward to. Her thoughts on this particular subject didn’t end there, though.
“Life after 50 is a great kind of different,” Vorderman explained during her talk with The Guardian. “It can be the best time of all. Less stressful, less competitive, freer, happier, more joyful. Life at any age is there to embrace, so it’s time we stopped using ageist language, intentional or not.”
With that in mind, someone else felt the need to flag up a case of ageism in August 2019. Suzanne Moore, who writes for the aforementioned newspaper, shared her experience in a column that looked back on a recent incident. As it turned out, the journalist had come across the issue on her social media page.
“It started with a tweet,” Moore wrote in The Guardian. “I wondered why people like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe so much, when it sounds like my idea of hell. Loads of ‘theater’ (with capital-letter ACTING), audience interaction, comedians [and] circus-type things. Edinburgh itself is gorgeous, so am I just a misery guts?”
After setting the scene, Moore revealed that she received a number of responses to her query. And these included a negative reply that suggested her outlook was a “sign of aging.” As she reflected on that “low blow,” she then compared it with the results found in SunLife’s recent report.
At that point, Moore fired back against the ageist comments in her own way. “A lot of rubbish is talked about getting older,” she continued. “Nora Ephron is the go-to person for women with crepey necks. Me? I prefer Ursula K. Le Guin.” From there, the Ipswich native brought up a quote from the latter.
“I am not ‘in’ this body,” read Le Guin’s passage. “I am this body. Waist or no waist.” Those words certainly made an impression on Moore, alongside another statement. She wrote, “That is a life lesson I would like every girl to learn. Le Guin also said, ‘Erase my age, you erase my life – me.’”
Moore then zoned in on the aspects of aging that are frequently covered in articles on the internet. As the journalist explained, these pieces appear to focus on the superficial side of becoming older. And in her opinion, there’s far more to the process than just a change in your physical appearance.
“Some of us will die of diseases that are genetic,” Moore explained in her newspaper column. “Some will look better than we did when we were young. Most of us do just fine. Wear a bikini. Don’t wear a bikini. Really, I do think there are bigger things to think about.”
After that, Moore looked beyond the superficial aspects of aging, as she made some interesting points. According to the columnist, the media fails to address the positive side of getting older. And while her first example was primarily aimed at women, she broadened her scope along the way.
“The menopause [is a positive aspect of aging],” Moore wrote. “A time of anxiety and then freedom, when women move from being someone who can reproduce to someone who can’t. Everything changes physically and mentally. It is a premonition of death and one becomes a different kind of being altogether: a creature who can only reproduce itself.”
Moore’s musings on the subject didn’t end there, though. “Aging is also a process of editing,” she continued. “You know those people you didn’t like much? Well, don’t bother with them. If someone has said ‘we must do lunch’ for 20 years and you haven’t, you are not going to now.”
In keeping with that point, Moore then explained that you know what you enjoy by a certain age. So when you reach that particular stage of your life, you don’t need to concern yourself with anything that could drag you down. Following that, the journalist summed up her thoughts at the end of the column.
“Getting old means relief at being canceled,” Moore admitted. “Not in the social media sense, but in the ‘let’s not bother meeting for lunch’ sense. It means loving new things and discarding old things. It means living as you want to live, not as you should.”
“Apart from chronic disease, of course, the worst thing about aging is having to wear stupid glasses,” Moore added. “But there is the wonder, too. Time is for wasting. Time is what you make of it. You choose. The best sign of aging, though, is that you are still you – only more so.”
And Moore’s column appeared to resonate with a lot of people online, as users flocked to read her words. Since being published, in fact, the article has earned more than 3,000 shares on Facebook while also generating close to 1,000 comments on the newspaper’s website. As for the reaction itself, it was somewhat mixed.
Many readers couldn’t help but agree with Moore’s positive outlook on aging, but there were others who felt differently. Among the latter group, one comment in particular really stood out. “The not so nice thing about growing old is losing one’s friends,” the user in question wrote.
“I am well into my 80s and I have very fond memories of days gone by,” the reader continued. “Old age can also be lonely, I now depend on the television for company. Enjoy your youth and make the most of every day. Love everyone like you have never loved them before, and tell them how much you love them.”
Meanwhile, another user offered up some positives when reflecting upon their own age. “The thing I like best about aging is having developed the confidence to not really care what anyone thinks of me,” they wrote. “My God, the time I used to waste worrying about what I’d done to offend someone, or said the wrong thing.”
As the comments continued to flood in, though, Moore felt the need to respond to some of the negative reactions. The journalist replied to one particular message, admitting that she’s had to face down a few unfortunate aspects of getting older. But her thoughts on the matter didn’t end there.
“I have lost people and I am losing people,” Moore wrote. “My God there is a lot of misery and loneliness in this world. Today I decided, in a fit of madness, to write about how I choose to look at aging and how I want to live, and how it’s not all terrible all the time. Thanks to the people who get it.”