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80 is the new 60: What does this phrase tell us about perceptions of age and ageing?

by on December 15, 2015

We’ve seen countless articles in which one older chronological age is declared to be the ‘new’ version of a younger chronological age (40 is the new 30, that sort of thing). There are two more of this sort this week. Under the headline ‘Is 50 the new 30? You bet!‘, this piece in the Daily Mail profiles seven women who claim their 50s is their ‘best decade yet’.  Listing their work roles as well as other life markers, the article provides a synposis of these women’s views about their perceptions of age and ageing. Though it should be pointed out that all of them appear to have been styled for the accompanying photo shoot in ways that emphasise the glamour end of the looks spectrum.

Over in the Express, this piece about Gloria Hunniford also discusses her perception of ageing. She is reported as saying: “Eighty is the new 60, we are working longer or having to work longer and I think there’s a new attitude about age.” It’s interesting that her perception about ageing is linked to her perception of working – or having to work – for longer now than in the past. As we saw in the piece we blogged about yesterday, comparing age at retirement at different time points suggests that some of us are retiring earlier not later which hints at a more complex overall retirment picture. See also this opnion piece in The Independent about how early retirees are apparently propping up the economy through vountary and care work.

Without in any way undermining anyone’s perceptions about age, it is worth noting that this formulation (in all its permutations), suggests that older age is worth less than younger age. An alternative might be in this type of article to start saying ‘this is what 55 looks like’ rather than to keep referencing younger chronological ages.

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