Iggy and The New Older Generation

L1010106You may have watched The Apprentice last week, the episode where the candidates were asked to create a profitable online dating service. One of the teams chose the 50-plus market.

A great idea, if it had not been for that team being so ignorant about the age group they intended to target. The commercial and barely finished website they created for the task, made it look like the 50-plus generation were one big geriatric yawn. The cringing promo filmed in dull decors, featured an older couple whose crotch appeared to have been ‘Barbified’ for the event – all smooth surfaces, and lobotomised of any carnal desire.

The young, vibrant and mostly stupid gave us an impression of what they believed the older generation were all about: boring people with an inane grin cemented onto their faces, lacking any fashionable style – extinct genitalia thrown into the sombre mix. Their vision of a love affair for over 50’s was a sterilised one. Even Lord Sugar seemed offended by the patronising portrayal of their online dating venture. And so were his sidekicks; ‘Lizard King’ Nick Hewer and ‘Silent Hatchet’ Karren Brady. Watching this sad spectacle, I was also vexed – and I am 40.

As, what I see around me these days when it comes to the ‘older’ generation is an image vastly different to the one of my childhood. In fact, when I was a child in Ghent, people over 60 were considered old. I am sure that this vision was clouded with the harsh innocence of youth – nevertheless most will agree that people in those days appeared to look older than they actually were, whether in Belgium or here in the UK. Compared to now at least.

It was partially due to the way they dressed: older women wore apron-style dresses with a wall-coloured coat on top and these ladies would never venture outside without a scarf wrapped around their pastels-rinsed bouffants. Older men were often seen in colours matching soil and sand, their hairstyle kept short, usually covered by a flat cap. It was extremely rare to see a fashionable, young-looking older person back then when this is practically the norm these days.

But to me, it’s not that long ago that older people, looked like, well old people. It was just so much easier then to say such and such is old. The image gave it away but so did their stilted behaviour. Theirs was a world of clear set boundaries and very few would step outside of this confined space. If they did, they would be referred to as being ‘eccentric’.

In my younger days, I cannot recall the 50-60-70-plus and older undertaking adventurous travelling, getting tattoos and rocking it up so much at a gig, it makes the younger ones look like they are at a tea dance. Obviously, this won’t be everyone’s idea of fun, but the option is there without having to think: can I still?

Thankfully this is how it is now, but only a few decades ago, once you moved up to an older age box, it was as if life as you had always known it got archived whilst a new manual was provided stipulating the code of conduct befitting a senior status more.

But maybe things were different indoors or amongst themselves, it’s just that we never really got to see this. Perhaps it was a case of nobody noticing the older generation that much as even so the middle-aged and elderly were in the majority in Belgium, most of the time, theirs was an invisible group.

Now, we’ve got an ‘older’ generation, the baby boomers, a great number of them looking absolutely amazing. This generation will sport eclectic hairstyles, wear Converse shoes or highly sexed stilettos and at times live through more exciting days than the generations below them.

Of course, you need to factor in the fact that the baby boomers have more disposable cash than their parents ever had, and for sure they will have led exciting and interesting lives before turning a certain age – so why stop now?

Such is the appeal of the electrifying baby boom generation that retailers are finally starting to realise the potential of marketing their brands to them as much as they once did to the treasured 18 to 34-year old demographic. As a matter of fact, the 18 to 34-year olds are pretty much broke these days, and unemployment in this age group is high. It would therefore not surprise me if in the near future, we will get to see a lot more advertisements starring mature men and women, flocking products far removed from denture adhesives and incontinence pads. In the last years we’ve had Paul McCartney, Helen Mirren and Samuel L. Jackson, both well over 60-years old, promoting iPods, iPads and iPhones respectively.

With all this bon-vivant spirit going on in this age group, it is understandable how some resort to potions and plastic surgery. The exterior may just be ever so slightly corroded but the need to correct this in order to match the blazing energy inside, is something I find only normal.

Naturally, some go too far in their quest of keeping up with the young and end up looking overstretched, a creature nor lamb or mutton. That said, if it makes a person feel better, why not?

Last Thursday, I went to see Iggy & The Stooges again and was amazed at the spectacle 66-year old Iggy delivered on stage. He struck me as being even more energetic than when I saw him in Hammersmith in 2010. The songs were delivered in his great punk-rocker style and as always, he crawled on all fours over the stage whilst singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, accentuating every muscle embroidered on his naked torso in the process. I don’t think there was a single person in the audience who thought: you old man, just put it away.

It’s the same for my parents. Well, it’s not that they climb on stage singing Cock In My Pocket but like Iggy Pop, they don’t consider age. I even think at times, they forget how old they are and continue with life as they’ve always known it. My mum is 61, listens mainly to Leonard Cohen, Queen and Daft Punk (the old Daft Punk, she hates the new album ‘far too commercial’), she wears long boots over her skinny jeans and is a social media fanatic. I wouldn’t expect anything else, she has always loved music, fashion and a life of discovery.

My 68-year old dad is like a man on rocket fuel, skipping through life, always dressed in an almost ‘cool student’ style and through gritted teeth appears to call everyone who annoys him: an old fart. Sometimes the object of his ageist sneering is much younger than him. As such, my mum has to often remind him that the person he is calling an old fart. is most likely 10 years younger than he is. My dad never seems to care, he doesn’t see himself as an older man anyway.

The guys and she-devils of the Apprentice didn’t grasp the fact that the middle-aged and over were in fact just like them, only a lot wiser and hopefully with more money at their disposal. One of the girls, Luisa (mean and clueless = dangerous combination) proclaimed that she could totally not relate to this age group – at all. She made it sound like the 50-plus group were not made out of the same cloth as her and had been bred somewhere in outer space. Nick Hewer who is 69,  described their work as ‘mumsy’ and ‘cosy’.

“This is my age group,’ he commented. “I would run a mile.”

I guess it is something which gives hope, the reassuring feeling that all will be okay later in life. There is no mandatory manual to follow any longer, and I am sure the fun I am having now, will still be happening in 10-20 years time and hopefully much longer. I realise that like my parents, I may forget my age at some point, though I also know for fact that the youth, despite seeing the outfits, the style and such zest for life of the older generation, probably never will. But when I think about it, it has always been a little bit like that. It’s one of these things that comes with time, the realisation that the older you get, the more you accept that age is nothing but that cliché of a saying.