Old age is slowly but surely, not to mention inescapably, coming for us all – trust me, I know, with my 30th birthday only a few months away. Don’t worry, I’m not panicking, by the time I’m 30 we’ll have cured the ageing process and we’ll all be happily flying round in our jetpacks and double-ties. So I’m fine. But what about the rest of you – just how old are you all feeling?
New ‘research’ published literally everywhere – such as the Express, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Metro and even BBC 4’s The Now Show – reveals just how old and decrepit we all are:
Don’t spill sherry, it’s one of 40 signs you’re getting old
DO you groan when bending down, use the phrase “in my day” or have switched from Radio 1 to Radio 2? Then you’ve got to face it, you’re getting old.
Falling asleep in front of the TV is a sure sign of getting old
Although most people agree there is no set figure that defines old age, certain habits and opinions identify a person as getting on in years.
In a survey of 2,000 people, the 40 most common pointers included taking your slippers to visit a friend’s house and using phrases such as: “It wasn’t like that when I was young.”
Other tell-tale signs were developing a love of sherry, taking a flask of tea on days out and falling asleep in front of the television.
Source: The Express, 18th June 2013
It seems, then, that an awful lot of things we would stereotypically attribute to ‘old people’ – such as drinking sherry, watching the Archers and driving slowly – really genuinely are signs that the shadowy hand of the reaper grows ever nearer. This would be quite a sobering thought, if it weren’t equally plausible that the research instead picked up on what we assume ‘old’ people do, based on the very stereotypes that are reinforced by articles such as these.
Other entries in the list were particularly obvious examples of this effect:
15. Discovering you have no idea what young people are talking about.
This is a textbook example of ‘begging the question’: of course someone who has no idea what ‘young’ people are talking about must be ‘old’ – if they weren’t old, they wouldn’t be able to label the former group as young.
Equally, it’s worth bearing in mind that this list was almost certainly given to participants in the survey who then had to rank which ones they felt were real signs of old age – rather than being a representative sample of responses freely offered by participants. It’s essentially a case of stacking the deck – by asking people to choose from a discrete list you yourself have chosen, with no real opportunity to offer their own suggestions in any meaningful way, you can easily produce exactly the kind of stereotype-friendly and media-pleasing list you need to support your client… who, in this case, is life insurance firm Engage Mutual:
Kathryn McLaughlin, of life insurance specialists Engage Mutual, which conducted the survey, said: “What is interesting is the general expectation across age groups that someone in the ‘older’ bracket will look and behave in a particular way. But with an ageing population, and working beyond retirement age becoming the norm, the reality is that many older people are challenging the ‘pipe and slippers’ stereotype.”
Eight out of 10 people in the survey believed you are only as old as you feel while 76 per cent intend to enjoy their youth for as long as possible. However, more than half were worried about getting old, losing memory, becoming ill and deteriorating physically.
Which, if you ask me, sounds like the kind of thing you should take out life insurance to protect yourself from… wait a minute! Sneaky, Kathryn McLaughlin of Engage Mutual life insurance, sneaky!
Odder still is the fact that Engage Mutual published the exact same story back in 2011 (as featured in the Daily Mail and the Mirror, amongst others), with almost identical entries in their top 50 list, many of which expressed in identical terms – further confirming that these reflect not the open responses of the survey takers, but the desired answers of the survey makers.
Perhaps they didn’t realise that constantly repeating yourself is a sign of old age…