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Context is key: age, work, mortgages and films

by on November 17, 2015

Context is everything when it comes to age. Or at least, that’s what one might conclude in looking at a different age at work stories in the media.

First, there is this item in The Telegraph that reports on how building societies are considering lifting the age caps on mortgage lending in the face of increasing numbers of older home owners being unable to move or being trapped on very high borrowing rates.  This is against a background of working longer (so needing to move for work reasons) as well as a trend towards first time house purchases being made later (the average age of a first time buyer is expected to rise from 30 to 40 by 2025).

The article reports that ‘it’s not just those in their late 50s or early 60s who are struggling – borrowers in their late 40s with good incomes who intend to work into their 70s are struggling to jump through lenders’ hoops’.  So in this context, the late 40s is positioned as really rather ‘young’ to be encountering difficulty in accessing mortgage funds.

At the same time, the Daily Mail here reports how the Australian Human Rights Commission is currently undertaking a national inquiry into workplace discrimination. It has found complaints of age discrimination from those who are just 40 years old (even younger than those in the Telegraph article), suggesting that employers see them as ‘too old’.  Here, it seems to be suggested that in the context of job search, 40 is way too young to be considered ‘too old’.

Then we have the BBC reporting that Kate Winslett (who turned 40 last month) is ‘not bothered’ by the debate triggered by the 14-year age difference between her and her younger male co-star in new film The Dressmaker. Age differences between a younger actress and an older male actor are so common as to be unremarkable but here director Jocelyn Moorhouse is reported to call the casting “a cheeky challenge” to audiences. So the particular context of age, gender and the film industry produces yet a further variation in the perception of being 40, with some discursive struggle around whether this age gap is remarkable or not and why.

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