Sunday, April 22, 2012

Growing up is hard to do

I think the line ‘growing up is very hard to do’ was part of the lyrics from the song ‘Heart of Gold’ by The Kinks (a 1960s London rock band, for those who think history is anything that happened before 1980). If having an octogenarian father who believes he is a perpetual teenager wasn’t enough proof of that proclamation, three recent conversations most certainly proved the point.

The most recent involved a professional conversation with an eighty year old lady, who declared upon leaving my consulting room that there was nothing wrong with her that a young man couldn’t fix. Unfortunately for that particular spirited lady, the local NHS budget doesn’t presently run to the provision of such therapies; at least not at present, but who knows what may be round the corner with the new Health and Social Care Bill?

Reversing in time, the second conversation was one overheard in a village pub in the Yorkshire Dales last week. Please picture two octogenarian men, both wearing cloth caps and tweed jackets, sitting at a small wooden table, and each supping a pint. In walks a third such character, with a profusion of hair protruding from beneath his cap and obscuring his collar.
‘You need a haircut, George.’
‘I had one last September,’ came the reply.

‘Just how old do you think you are?’

‘76 next birthday.’

‘Ah, a mere youngster. That’ll explain it then.’

However, those two conversations just added to what I had already perceived closer to home one month ago. The occasion was dinner with a friend, who is normally a respectable, suited, high-powered business man. For the sake of clarity, he is in his forties and I am in my fifties. We were dining in a rather splendid establishment in East Yorkshire when the conversation turned to an ‘App’ called ‘Foursquare’ that one can download for mobile telephones and other such devices. It allows the user to ‘check-in’ to wherever they are. This in turn allows their friends to keep track of their whereabouts. Points are gained for every ‘check-in’, and there is a table ranking one’s friends in respect to their week’s activity. In addition, if you have checked in the most times to a particular location, you become the ‘Mayor’ of that establishment; a fact that is then made known to the entire electronic world via Twitter, Facebook and any other social networking facility available. It is rather pointless and somewhat childish. It is also exceedingly good fun, and had us both near to hysterical laughter; especially when my friend discovered that I am now the Mayor of the Elsham Railway Crossing and also the Barton Recycling Plant.

Traditionally, 18 is considered to be the age we become adults. However, a survey by the financial company Scottish Widows concludes that we are more and more delaying taking on the roles and responsibilities of adulthood. Apparently, half the population didn’t feel like responsible adults until they were 25. More intriguingly, 49% of those who don’t presently feel like a grown-up think they will never do so.

The population of our country may be an ageing one, but it would seem that there is proof that the aged are getting younger, in mind as well as in body. As Bernard Baruch (American presidential adviser) wrote in Newsweek in 1955, ‘To me old age is always fifteen years older than I am’. It would appear that his concept has firmly crossed the Atlantic.

(First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Thursday 29th March 2012)

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