Nobody loves a fairy when she’s forty
Nobody loves a fairy when she’s old
She may still have a magic power but that is not enough
They like their bit of magic from a younger bit of stuff
When once your silver star has lost its glitter
And your tinsel looks like rust instead of gold
Fairy days are ending when your wand has started bending
No-one loves a fairy when she’s old

These words were written in 1934 and made famous by the great Tessie O’Shea. Gradually “forty” has been replaced by “fifty” in the official version of the song and there is every reason to believe that were such a song to be written today it would be replaced by “sixty” or even “seventy”.

And so we come to the annual UK Older People’s Day to be held on 1st October when many events will be held around the country to support our older population and to encourage them to take up all kinds of sports, pastimes, fun and social activities and a whole host more. The day coincides with the much wider International Day of Older Persons. If you look in your local paper or search the web you may very well find one in your area. They are to be applauded – with one reservation.

The whole day is built on the assumption that being an “older person” starts at fifty and that at this age we can only pay lip service to serious physical activity and mentally and physically demanding pursuits. It is time that this image was finally put to rest.

People in their fifties are not in their dotage and are not, in general, frail and vulnerable. Most of them are still very actively engaged in work – or would like to be if stereotypical representations did not portray them as “past it”. They have families to worry about, financial pre-occupations and are likely to be very active in the community or on the sports field. They are people to be reckoned with.

Until this portrayal is eradicated, once and for all, then programmes like Newsnight will continue to show random, patronising examples of elderly people enjoying themselves but talk in terms of the “Over 50s” in general.

Hardly consistent with the current first ever campaign for “Safe sex for the over 50s” is it?

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