I have been watching Annabel Crabb’s moving series on the ABC, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, about sentencing some elderly folks to spend time with pre-schoolers. The result of this experiment was the enhanced well-being and reduced frailty of the elderly conscripts.
Mixing wisdom and youth appears to benefit both parties. However, reflecting on my own pre-school years in the early 1970s, I found it hard to reconcile my experience of my grandparents and their friends ’with the selection of delightful wrinklies on the ABC.
In my mind, I am wanting to see the out-takes reel showing these pensioners stepping on the kiddies’ toys and breaking them, or the howls from the children when taken outside for a sound thrashing to prevent further bouts of showing off. Where were those sour-faced old sods that told young Jamie to howls of laughter from the other aged fellows that “Tigger” was a silly name for his new kitten?
It also appeared that Ms Crabb’s team had edited out the farting. Those old enough to remember the 1970s might recall that it was not only as widespread as a Clackers set in a playground, it was positively de rigueur. Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles and Peter Sellars in the Pink Panther led the flatulence fandom. On the home front, my dear sweet grandmother, brought up at a time when one had to make one’s own entertainment, was prone to let fly without a skerrick of embarrassment.
I also wondered how hard it is to spot an oldie, given that oldies are increasingly disguising themselves in young people’s attire like trainers and tracksuits. When I grew up, old people had proper tweed togs, sensible shoes and false teeth. They were easy to identify on the whole, although when Punk Rock took off, there was a confusing time when only grandmothers and followers of the Sex Pistols had blue or pink hair.
I genuinely thought that false teeth and farting were signs of adulthood. I failed to achieve only one of those goals, probably due to fluoride in the water.
What, you may well ask, has this to do with careers and work? Well, this show was reminder of the value of wisdom, and how when stereotypes (such as those preceding!) are broken down, there is much value in intergenerational interactions. Yet still we see age discrimination in the workplace. Those over 50 have a far tougher time finding or retaining work than their younger counterparts.
The danger of disconnecting the generations is social withdrawal, and mutual misunderstanding. This can pervade even the trivial aspects of life. I found myself giggling at a Dad joke today, “Little is known about Diana Dors sister Erin as she never went out much.” To get that you need to know about the English 1950s-1980s actor Diana Dors, and also the 1980s TV show Minder – that had a sexist reference to “er indoors”. These trivial disconnects can, if not challenged, add up quickly to psychological distance.