Author Archives: Dianne

Third Age Press is not the only one looking for plays by (and about) older people

For the third time, Third Age Press invited thirdagers to submit plays (principally but not exclusively) aimed at playreading groups of which there are hundreds in U3As around the country.

Competition was brisk and fascinating and the new collection all be published on 28 November 2013. See our Home Page and/or Book Shop for details.

But we are also interested to see that the Royal Court Theatre have also noted the importance of older writers and are on the lookout for new and exciting material. Great minds etc etc…  except you don’t have be over 80 to enter our competition.

Mount the barricades – we’re under attack. Third Age Total War has been declared

Typing  ‘third age’ into Google in order to check on our website, I was stunned to be deluged with websites and YouTube links for ‘Third Age – Total War’. This is apparently the hot new video game based on the Lord of the Rings. Not being a follower of  the L of the R ‘saga’ and having long ago forgotten the details of the book I read to my children, I don’t know if ‘third age’ is an accepted term in the middle kingdom – nor even if it is, what it means. Please enlight me.

But more to the point – what should we authentic ‘thirdagers’ do. Attack? Surrender? Maybe join forces? Is there a role for us in the Middle Kingdom?

But wait. Maybe we just need to bide our time. I see that ‘Fourth Age: Total War’ has just been released and (as I’m sure you all know) the ‘fourth age’ is that (hopefully very short because we’ve been so stimulated and active in our third age) period of our lives when we return to dependency leading to death. So just imagine all those fierce warriors falling into pathetic decline – armoured warriors with zimmer frames? The mind boggles! Or perhaps we can look forward to ‘Terminal drop: Total War’ when, lemming-like, they all rush (unable to see through their armoured visors) off a steep cliff and plunge, with an all-mightly clanging of armour, to their deaths!

PS: ‘terminal drop’ is, I believe an authentic statistical term denoting the sudden death of someone not yet in their fourth age.

Accentuate The Positive

Please feel free to add any image or text that ‘accentuates the positive’ view of old age. For starters here’s the Bolder Group making their noteworthy case, fighting for their centre with song.

Hurrah for positive thinking Katharine Whitehorn

. . . and the ‘elderly’ couple she met in the cafe drinking wine at 11 in the morning. Their advice – ‘The closer to the grave you get, the less the rules apply’. What a great motto. Thanks

Michele Hanson warts and all

I stopped reading Ms Hanson (Guardian G2 Tuesdays) for a while because I couldn’t stand her negativity but I’ve now gone back to her because I’ve decided it’s healthy to raise your hackles once in awhile and boy, does she ever raise mine. I can’t remember who I heard say of an elderly male relative that he was a cantankerous old bastard but that it was being cantankerous that kept him alive. It’s good to get the adrenalin of anger racing through the body from time to time.

I suspect that Michele Hanson actually leads quite a good life so why does she always (well, almost always) have to focus on the negatives of later life? Take the column of Tuesday March 5th which focused all too closely on a large black lump on her scalp (which turned out to be a senile wart) with, as an added bonus, a comment about her dog’s ulcerated eye!

I think that what she was really writing about was fear and that fear – particularly of ill health in old age – is very real and scary so  why couldn’t she address the issue in a realistic way that might be helpful and enlightening?

Probably you will say because the Guardian pays her to be amusing so she has to start with something negative and turn it into a laugh (well, I assume some people laughed – I didn’t and, before you label me, I’m not a curmudgeonly sort of person).

There are plenty of amusing and interesting things that happen to old people which really are funny and reflect the positives in the lives of old people. So please, Michele, write us funny column that leaves us thinking about the good things in our lives. In other words, as the masthead on my blog says ‘Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don’t mess with Mr Inbetween’.

If you have examples of negative ways in which older people are represented in the media, please share them with us.

Suzanne Lacy’s Silver Action

SILVER ACTION  01 & 03 Feb 2013

When the Tanks at the Tate (mod) were first opened last year, one of the installations caught my eye – convened by an American conceptual artist, Suzanne Lacy, it consisted of a timelapse film of a large empty space in a shopping mall being gradually set with many round tables which were then populated by a few hundred older women who did choreographed movements with their hands while they talked about issues that concerned them – then gradually left the tables and the space went back to being empty. There was, alongside, an audio tape (plus some quotes flashed up on walls) of presumably the same older women in conversation (which might well have been interesting if one could have heard more). To be honest I wasn’t very impressed but did think it might be an opportunity to flog a few books. So I contacted Suzanne Lacy (or one of her minions) and many months later was informed that another event would be taking place at the Tate Modern – Silver Action.

On the Friday February 1st attended a 3-hour seminar with nearly 30 other women – one of 9 such gathering held through the week.  The women came from all over the country and a large number of them were artists of various sorts, writers and academics. We were given various tasks (games) to stimulate discussion – the main emphasis (although we wandered a lot) was on campaigning and feminism. Some had been to Greenham Common and involved in other movements (I felt a  bit of a fraud but decided that launching U3A and Third Age Press had given many older women opportunities to develop new experiences, skills and challenge stereotypes – therefore  campaigning.). It was an interesting afternoon if pretty unfocused.  We did generate a lot of written material that was pasted up on a timeline and I did ask what would happen to it – assuming it would become part of the ‘artwork’ but got the impression that wasn’t likely to happen. (The seminar was mostly run by staff from the Tate Education Dept).

There were about 400 women involved in the Sunday (Feb 3rd) event – divided into groups of 100 each spending an hour in the ‘tank’ – where we could be observed by members of the public. We sat at card tables (4 to a table) in randomly selected groups. We were given a card on which were 4 questions to stimulate discussion.  We decided on 2. Describe something you witnessed, experienced or read that might have propelled you to action or activism. I was disappointed in the quality of the conversation at our table. There was a young woman sitting by each table making notes on a mobile phone (I assume) and we were told we would all have a chance to leave the group and tell ‘our story’ to a transcriber and our words would be flashed up on the walls of the tank –  but time ran out before I had a chance to speak.

There were members of the public wandering around but as they were confined to just the outer perimeter of the tables it was questionable how much they heard.

My favourite story of the day was from a woman at our table – she had been there earlier in the day and lined up to go in a hear/see what was going on when a couple of young families with kids joined the line and wanted to know what it was about. As she  explained it to the Moms, the Dads wandered up to the door, looked in on the assembled women then came back and said ‘No it’s  not for us – just a  bunch of old women. If they were strippers it might be worth it!.

 Did we constitute a work of art? What do you think.

And everyone I talked do disliked the ‘silver action’ title – which brings us back to the eternal problem – what do we call ourselves?

I did meet a very interesting woman  in the ‘holding area’ who does similar sorts of work in Scotland with all kinds of disadvantaged people and she told me about some of Suzanne Lacy’s other work and they did sound very worthwhile and fascinating – but art?

PS: I don’t mean to imply that, even if this is not a work of art, it is without value. Here’s a link to a short video about the project.

Are you a time bomb? Do such headlines want to make you explode?

BRITAIN’S OLD-AGE TIME BOMB (Guardian Monday 25th February 2013)

A recent article in The Guardian referred (although they may have been quoting someone else) to the ‘time bomb’ of Britain’s expanding population.  Of course, over the last few years we have seen numerous similar reports referring to the ‘burden’ that our generations is imposing and increasingly going to impose on social and health services and the Treasury.   Newspapers other than the Guardian might put, more graphically,  the ‘shock horror’ case of the burgeoning elderly population.  According to the Guardian article  our long life is a ‘gift’ and we are ‘in the vanguard of an extraordinary revolution in longevity’. So are you ready to mount the barricades or do the depictions in the press of older people still make you want to explode?

One of the things I plan to do in these blogs is keep an eye on the press but your observations  would be very useful. I also intend to look at those older people who write regular columns which tend to focus on age and, to me, seem to be, too frequently, quite negative!

Britain’s old-age time bomb

The 7 Signs of Ageing – are YOU ‘worth it’?

My name is Dianne Norton and I want to encourage you to make the best of the rest of your lives. And before you shout ‘patronising’ at me I also want to know how you make the most of your lives or what’s stopping you from doing so . . . or maybe you just don’t want to . . . or there’s something that really makes your hackles rise. Mine do – regularly – how’s this for starters?

The 7 Signs of Ageing are excerpts from an essay in my book – ‘Defining Women: mature reflections’ click here to see it the bookstore.

L’Oréal advertises products as attacking the ‘seven signs of ageing’. A quick ‘google’ of the ‘seven signs of ageing’ elicited 98,000 websites. So what are these blatant portends that identify us as old women?

Apparently most  women (surveyed) consistently identified seven relevant signs of ageing.

1. Fine lines and wrinkles

2. Rough skin texture

3. Uneven skin tone

4. Skin dullness

5. Visible pores

6. Blotches and age spots

7. Skin dryness

. . . so anything below the shoulders – or above the hairline – doesn’t matter. Well that’s good news isn’t it?

. . . and L’Oréal ends every advert with that unctuous (‘unctuous’, appropriately, is defined in the OED as ‘having a greasy or a soapy feel’) ‘because we’re worth it’.  What exactly are we worth or perhaps more to the point, what do they think we are worth? Presumably the answer to the latter is that we are worth the extortionate amounts it costs to buy their ‘anti-ageing’ products. They obviously think we owe it to ourselves (and perhaps to anyone who has to look at us) to spend money on products that they claim will halt nature in it’s tracks. ‘Anti-ageing’? If ever there was an oxymoron – that’s it!

1. The numbers game

Two interlinked things that really make my hackles rise are  the media’s – mostly newspapers’ – obsession with labelling people by age, usually in a completely irrelevant way (will they still be able to do this under the new age discrimination legislation?) and the widespread practise of relating the way a person looks to their chronological age .

‘Woman, 63, in fall from Scottish peak’  trumpeted the Wimbledon Guardian. We read this and instantly dredge up a stereotype of this 63-year-old woman. What on earth, we are meant to reflect, was such an elderly woman doing up a mountain?  An interesting fact about this particular story was that only a week later, in the same mountains, a young man was killed in a fall and the press barely noticed. What the press is doing when it uses this device is pandering to our lazy minds or saving themselves the trouble of telling us more about the person and the event in the belief that giving that chronological age automatically gives us a true picture of the person involved.

My second bête noir is that statement, or one of its many variations ‘but you don’t look old enough to be . . .’  and we react with giddy pleasure no matter how hard we try not to because we have been programmed to believe that this is a compliment. However, if we do or don’t look a particular age it implies that there is a standard against which we can be measured and if there is a standard what is it and who sets it?  Now people who make these remarks are, on the whole, well-intentioned which stops me from making one of several replies that springs to mind. ‘Oh’, I’d like to say in a deeply apologetic voice,  ‘I’m so sorry. What am I supposed to look like?’ Or it may be more acceptable to say ‘but this IS what 66 looks like’ or ‘but this is what grandmothers look like nowadays’. As I have not had plastic surgery or any other transforming ‘procedures’ does it not go without saying that what I look like is me at 66 and every other 66-year-old will look like them and, thank heavens, none of us will look the same!

The whole thing about broadcasting our ages – even if the expected coyness of days gone by which made it extremely ‘bad form’ to mention a ‘lady’s’ age, is changing – or telling us we don’t look our age, is that it denigrates us as individuals. It dumps us into the miasma of stereotypical people who are not worthy of individuality and should be faceless and invisible (about which, more anon).