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Paxman on ageing: with grace or disgracefully? Choice is the key.

by on August 31, 2016

Jeremy Paxman is no stranger to controversy in the press.  Nor indeed is he a stranger to discussing the issue of ageing and causing an outcry; back in 2014 he got in trouble for joking about euthanasia and in 2015 he suggested that older voters should be retired in favour of giving 16 and 17 yr olds the vote (a view that post-Brexit, has been widely shared).

His most recent contribution to the debate has been similarly provocative as he has engaged in what the press are referring to as a spat over the publication ‘Mature Times’.  The editor of that publication has posted a reply in the Guardian, suggesting that he should ’embrace the years with grace’.

Much of the coverage highlights Paxman’s age, suggesting this meant he was in effect insulting himself.  However,  the issue seems rather to be that he was resisting a particular construction of old age – as a time of decline – one he found to be pervasive within the adverts of that magazine in particular.  Others have taken up this stance and praised Paxman for demanding a more positive view of getting older, as in this article by Simon Kilner.

As is often the case, Paxman’s words have proved irresistible for the headline writers, but the real debate here should be about why can’t we challenge these views of getting older or accept that multiple experiences of ageing are possible.  Embracing ageing with grace is one option, growing old disgracefully seems to be a perfectly valid alternative.

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