A growing list of the indignities of old age

More than half (57 per cent) say they have been exposed to ageist stereotyping in the media – 69 per cent of women, no doubt reading about crepey cleavage and saggy booty and wondering where to hide until God calls them home.

“So now living longer is a bad thing!” a CARP editorial says. “That is the sum total of a simplistic analysis that is popular today. The pernicious result of this kind of dissociative thinking is that public policy – and attitudes – will continue to kick older Canadians to the curb.”

British studies show that breast cancer and stroke sufferers who are over 65 get inferior medical treatment to those younger than 65 – less chemotherapy, less radiotherapy, less breast-conserving surgery, less lifestyle counselling and, for stroke victims, less access to brain scans (only one in 20 over 75 are given MRIs compared with one in four under 75).

Workplace age-discrimination lawsuits in the United States are increasing explosively, although a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has made it harder for workers to litigate successfully by raising the bar on what is required to establish age-prejudicial behaviour by employers.

But we know employers don’t want the old, all that foofaraw aside about them being valuable for their knowledge and experience.

Research published this year by University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Salthouse says that reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualization begin declining at the end of one’s 20s.

Memory stays intact until the age of 37 and then begins to go. After 60, general knowledge and vocabulary stop improving.

Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging say productivity starts to decline in early middle age and by 50 is yodelling down the hill – a decline that applies not just to bankers, stockbrokers and, ha-ha, lawyers, but also to writers (notably male writers), painters and musicians.

What employer wants the wrinklies? Not many.

However, the wrinklies come with a poison pill. They’re a demographic time bomb.

If they’re shooed away from the workplace and told to sit on their hands, either the birth rate has to increase dramatically to provide more workers to support them, or immigration from young-population countries has to increase dramatically. With people inevitably getting bad-tempered about paying for the layabout old.

The easiest option is to extend the length of their working lives, and provide them with benefits and give them Tamiflu.

© The Globe and Mail