News Analysis

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Lorraine Courtney: Why it's never been a more exciting time to be an OAP

Published 07/01/2013 | 17:00

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'QUARTET', Dustin Hoffman's country-house, putting-on-a-play drama is on screens nationwide right now with older luvvies Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Billy Connolly battling the side-effects of ageing. The house is a care home for retired actors and singers, and the white-haired reality is that some people, like Maggie Smith's character Jean, repeat themselves.

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Others, like Wilf, played by Connolly, have problems with piles and their prostate. "Why do we have to get old?" Jean asks her long-estranged ex-husband, who's also living in the home. "Because," says Tom Courtenay's character, "that's what people do". It's sad, but also beautiful because it's true.

Yes, people do age, though you wouldn't usually think it when watching films. And while 'Quartet' does tend to patronise with sentimentality and easy laughs, at least it does – unlike television and much of the media – acknowledge that old people exist. It's part of a wider thing, too.

From 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' and 'Amour' to next month's release of 'Song for Marion', Hollywood finally appears to be coming around to the idea that people will go to see films that are full of old people. Maggie Smith's withering wonder is on fine form – she's been nominated for Golden Globes in two separate categories – proving that great careers don't have an expiry date.

Take Silvio Berlusconi. He's just gone and nabbed himself a 27-year-old fiance, Francesca Pascale.

While Mr Berlusconi might not be the ideal role model in his personal or professional life, he is shattering the grey ceiling of ageing in the workplace with his plans to take another stab at the country's crown. After stepping aside a year ago to make way for a technocratic government appointed to stave off impending financial crisis, the 76-year-old is hoping to run in February's general election. An EU-wide survey from Eurostat last year found that the employment rate of people aged 65 and over in Ireland was 8.6pc, which is well above the EU average of 4.7pc.

And in 2008, the elderly mobilised in a way that all other groups in our society have failed to do when around 20,000 angry pensioners scared the Government into granting a partial climbdown on plans to scrap automatic entitlement to the over-70s medical card. The protest was remarkable. It was heartening, and our Government realised that they can't mess with our golden oldies.

The world grows older by the minute. Most babies born in Europe since 2000 will live to celebrate their 100th birthday and by 2041, those over 80 in Ireland will number about 450,000. By 2060, more than one in five of Ireland's population will be over the age of 65.

This will be about 1.5 million people. The future is grey. There is nothing alarming in that evolution. Being an OAP has never been so exciting. But next time, they deserve a film with a little more grit.

Irish Independent

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