Tag Archives: ageism

Don’t grow old!

When I was a lot younger I remember older people telling me not to grow old. Thanks to the NHS and better nutrition most of us live longer lives than our grandparents or great grandparents did, but greater age brings more health problems. At 78 I already consume a handful of pills morning and night, and tend to take a lift rather than use the stairs. I have a marked reduction in energy to do normal everyday things and often need a nap during the day. In spite of those constraints I am still actively involved in my local party and I volunteer and engage in creative activities (as well as editing Lib Dem Voice).

Occasionally people make assumptions about me – last year a car salesperson asked me if I knew how to use Google, and my grandson asked me if I knew what RAM is (even though he had one of my books on Computing on his shelves). I don’t think I’ve really come across deliberate ageism as such, but I could quote many cases of unconscious/institutional bias. The latter mainly arise because younger people just can’t imagine what the limitations are as you get older.

I was struck by some of the comments around the proposals to close down ticket offices across the rail network. Some older people struggle with ticket machines – these can be challenging if their eyesight is poor, or they have weak manual dexterity. Others find online booking difficult, if not impossible, especially if they don’t have a smart phone or tablet. Even once online the complications of widely varying pricing and competing train companies can stump some.  Most people want to remain independent for as long as possible – and that is good for their mental health – but these challenges push people towards greater dependency on others, or force them to give up travelling by train.

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The party is listening to young people

Among Liberal Youth members’ criticisms of the recent York Conference, there is the frequent accusation of inherent ageism against the younger members of the party; as a 23 year old ‘young’ member I find this is overstated. Whilst there was one notable instance in a debate of a young man being called ‘naïve’, this is by no means the norm. Furthermore, the reaction in the room seemed to show the audience siding with the younger member. Of course there are members who dismiss the opinions of those younger than themselves, however to place this at the feet of the party itself is misguided. We cannot align some less-than-polite tweets and comments on social media with the establishment of the party as a whole.

In my experience of Liberal Democrat Conference, I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed by the Lib Dem community especially as a younger member. Often remarked is how nice it is to see lots of young people getting involved and this was evident in York. There was a considerable number of young brilliant speakers in all debates, including some very brave young women in the diversity motion. I am proud of all the ‘youth’ that spoke out as I am sure the majority of the party is as well. 

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The party needs to live its values in the way it treats young members

Imagine being a member of a political party which prides itself on policy crafted by individuals which are valued in their own right, not for their morally arbitrary characteristics. It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine, because it is what our party sells itself as. Now imagine that upon joining that party you are told that actually what you are is just a good pair of legs to deliver leaflets, that you should instead accept that some people know better than you as a consequence of again arbitrary characteristics, and that regardless of your actual experiences that people are right to make assumptions about your knowledge, intelligence, and capacity for thinking into the future.

I would imagine that sounds fairly grim to you, and of course I would naturally agree. The sad thing is that this is a reality for young members of our party which they experience almost daily. It is no more obvious than at party conferences, where regardless of one’s education, training and vocation, that one is deemed “naïve” as a consequence of one’s youth.

I’d like to say I was heartened by the gasps and boos following one such example during the fracking debate, and I dare say the speaker responsible will have learnt her lesson. However, the problem persists within the party, and was evidenced the next day on the controversial debate concerning AWS and ADS. Young speakers from both sides of the debate recalled times where either themselves or their friends had experienced unwanted advances and sexual harassment, only to be told later either that they were plainly wrong, or that they knew nothing about true sexism.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 49 Comments

Recent Comments

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