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Monday, 29 April 2013

The invisibility cloak

There is a time switch in one's life. I'm not sure when it turns off, but it does. It happens when you get older. It plunges you into darkness, or rather you wear a cloak of invisibility. "Old person" is the name of it.

It shrouds you in a one-size-fits-all old-person outfit. Young people - that is everyone under 40, don't notice you in the street or at a party - or perhaps they make no effort to acknowledge you, thinking you have nothing interesting to say. People over 40 patronise you, assuming you might be deaf, addled or arthritic, so they offer you the comfortable chair in a loud voice and sit in the back in the car. They are the ones that might move over for you in the bus, whereas, anyone younger doesn't actually see you at all!

Old people look so dull, so uninteresting, so boring. It's easy to switch your attention to something seemingly more interesting.

BUT I have always been interested in old people, even as a child. I love history, and history lives in old people. Also wisdom. Wisdom is what makes old people so valuable. Politicians should be old and wise, with less bling and more sense.

I have found that if you investigate under the invisibility cloak, you find treasure. Many old people have done the most extraordinary things - things that might make your hair stand on end, and, what's more, they are still doing them.

It is tragic that old people are so undervalued in our western culture. Getting them to dance and sing at the village hall or play bingo once a week, or attend excercise classes arranged by patronising 40 year olds is sadly obscene. It makes people feel they are "doing" something for old people. Well, yes, maybe.

But the most useful thing that old people need is not the superficial activities, but the genuine interest of people in their culture, who value them for who they are - experienced humans.

We live in a time of the superficial, the young, the clone culture, Ikea, mass produced goods, new builds for small families, young politicians, child body fashions, youth culture, papered over cracks, an everything-must-look-good culture, and we tidy citizens by eternal and mostly experimental legislation making robots of the new generation.

How can we value old people when we value nothing old? So we simply cover them with an invisibility cloak and take them out of it now and again to prove to ourselves and others how good we are to them.

If you were a famous musician, an artist, a writer, a person of note you will be praised for "being so amazing for your age". Well, I think most old people are amazing. They are dealing with the hardest part of their lives and their invisibility cloaks are a heavy burden. We need to be more observant. We need to find the treasure.

We need to do that, because, unless we change, and whilst we live in a tribe that only honours the new, the invisibility cloak is going to cover us all in the end.