In­flat­able as­sets

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Some of the most un­racist, un­sex­ist, woke peo­ple you meet will still be unashamedly ageist.

“I un­der­stand why women over 40 get Bo­tox,” a Mil­len­nial mused to me earnestly. “It’s the pres­sure that stems from so­ci­ety not valu­ing them!”

“So­ci­ety,” I replied in my head, “does not value com­plete dron­gos at any age.”

Out loud I said some­thing about how so­ci­ety had al­ways been per­fectly nice to me. But it sounded pa­thetic. Un­con­vinc­ing. My voice fad­ing out as she turned away to talk to some­one more val­ued.

For a mo­ment I felt like driv­ing at high speed to the near­est Bo­tox clinic to de­mand that some­one pump up my face like an in­flat­able ca­noe. Hell, maybe I could get a ride there in an am­bu­lance.

But then I calmed down. The fact is, I was prob­a­bly ageist at 25 and, when it comes to peo­ple older than me, I still am.

Take to­day’s cover story on oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans who con­tinue to work. The writer of the story, Yvonne van Don­gen, sent me a list of their con­tact de­tails so I could or­gan­ise pho­tos. I rolled my eyes at the list of land­line num­bers and com­mented to a col­league that this was go­ing to be a mis­sion.

It wasn’t. All four of these peo­ple were more onto it than I am. The older gen­er­a­tion may still have land­lines, but here’s some­thing else: they ac­tu­ally lis­ten to their mes­sages. And then they phone the caller straight back. They know their diaries in­side out. “I would like to be wear­ing a suit in the pho­to­graph,” Mar­garet Austin, CNZM, in­formed me. “Be­cause that’s who I am.”

Gor­don Levet told me in his crisp tones that he could only be con­tacted af­ter dark. If it’s day­light, he’s out on the farm. Olivia Shee­han, who bounces each week be­tween her clifftop West Auck­land home and the flat she shares with oth­ers in town, was as flexible to deal with as her pro­fes­sion (yoga teacher) would sug­gest.

Sir Ron Bri­er­ley was less co-op­er­a­tive, al­though he did email a shot of him­self shak­ing the hand of the Queen.

These are all peo­ple who were ex­cep­tional in their younger days and con­tinue to be so now.

The moral is: don’t try to cling to your youth – that’s a mug’s game. In­stead, try to cul­ti­vate your­self. Be­cause the per­son you’re evolv­ing into now is the per­son you’ll be at 85. And 85 can be amaz­ing.

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