Respect Your Elders

The leader of Britain's third political party resigned recently. The world took no notice. Truth is no one takes notice of third parties.

So I won't trouble you with the details, except for one thing. He said he had to resign because at 66 the voters judged he was too old to do the job. Journalists I spoke to said the trouble was that he wasn't just 66. He looked it.

So that's it. It doesn't matter what you know or what you can do, these days if you look old, forget it. Strange world, is it not? The average age of the population rises steadily; the grey generation has more power at the ballot box, better health, more money, and according to one American survey I read, a better sex life than ever before. And yet the worship of youth continues and is reinforced.

We used to venerate old age and experience. Winston Churchill didn't pack it in as Prime Minister until 1955, and he was born in 1874. You will recollect that your Mr. Reagan took over as President in 1981, aged almost 70, and stayed there for the next eight years. Very popular he was too.

Could it happen again? Well not here it couldn't, and I suspect not on your side of the Atlantic either. The older we all get, the more we seem to worship at the altar of youth. And how should those of us with grey hair react to that? Well, a bit of self ridicule always goes down well with the young. Bob Hope, born in England in 1903, and still a star in the1980's in the United States, said, "I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon, and then it's time for my nap."

The trouble is that our treatment of the old is not at all funny. I am prepared to laugh along with the comedians at the prospect of the gradual decline in physical and mental powers. What other way is there to greet the process? It is after all better than the alternative. But what I don't find it amusing is that while society reacts with horror to abuse of the young, a horror I share, the abuse of the old seems to be condoned.

The old are neglected by those who should love them, bullied and patronized by those who should serve them, and exploited by those who should care for them. They are abused physically and mentally and there seems no one to speak up for them.

It is about time on both sides of the Atlantic that those with grey hair, but with a bit of blood left in their veins, stood up for themselves. What we need in fact is a third party, a party for the old. And here's a slogan for our campaign, "Show a Bit of Respect."
by Peter Allen
  • CBSNews

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