For the first time I can remember I’ve been described as “cute”, and it’s happened more than once.I’ve also managed to elicit the occasional “aaah” about something I’ve said or done.
This turn of events has come as a surprise. I’d imagined everyone’s cute quotient starts reducing from around the age of two unless they are a rabbit. Yet at 60 mine seems to be on the way up.
These aaah happenings tend to occur when I do something that’s a bit cliched old man – like when I talk with enthusiasm about gardening or try to be witty, otherwise known as telling a “Dad joke”.
Admittedly there is a very small demographic that appears to think of me like this – three women under the age of 25 to be precise two of which are my daughters, the other one might well become a daughter-in-law.
I’m never sure what to think when this happens. I’m ok with it I guess but there’s a little part of me not so sure. It feels like I’m being defined by my age, that as well as being 60 I’m behaving like an old man in an endearingly, harmless, innocent of way. Part of me wants to come across a bit edgy, dangerous even, though I guess not to my younger female relatives.
I guess there are worse things you can get called when you get to my age and indeed there are according to a survey carried out by u3a – the University of the Third Age.
It found that over 60s are regularly patronised by younger generations with name calling such as ‘geriatric’ and ‘over the hill’ among the most frequent insults.
Researchers asked older people to report the most demeaning terms they have had directed at them.
Being called ‘geriatric’ topped the list with ‘past it’ and ‘fuddy duddy’ also making the top three.
Nearly two-thirds said they had been called these names in public, but they also reported them as being commonplace in TV programmes (65 per cent), social media (33 per cent) and used by members of their family (21 per cent).
Over 1,000 people aged 60 and over responded to a request by u3a to submit the most demeaning terms they have had directed at them.
U3a also quizzed the wider public and discovered more than half of them (53 per cent) admit using words which older people see as patronising.
A third (31 per cent) confess to using ‘fogey’ about an older person, while over a quarter (27 per cent) have used ‘biddy’ and 18 per cent said they’d described them as ‘past it’.
A fifth of Britons admitted to calling someone grandpa or grandma, despite not being related to them.
But it seems many in younger generations simply don’t view the terms as insults.
They say they use them as ‘it’s just banter’ (43 per cent), ‘to be friendly’ (38 per cent) or simply because ‘it’s widely used language’ (35 per cent).
Many older Britons who took part in the research said they do not feel old enough to have the terms thrown at them (41 per cent) and almost a third (28 per cent) described them as outdated.
The poll showed the most common reason for disliking such sayings is because ‘they are not an accurate representation of older people today’ (69 per cent).
Those surveyed were also invited to share their stories of patronising language.
One woman told researchers: ‘I hate being called ‘young lady’ when I am 86 years old!’
Another said: ‘In a shop I was addressed by an assistant who asked ‘How are we doing so far today?’ as if I were lucky to have made it to midday.’
U3a, which has over 450,000 members, is now asking the public to think twice about the language they use towards older people and help build a more inclusive society.
Sam Mauger, CEO of the u3a movement, said: ‘Our members are vibrant, young at heart and have much to offer. They are not the stereotypes represented by these words.
‘This absolutely isn’t about placing blame; it’s about highlighting how our language can inadvertently serve to exclude people.
‘We want to challenge the preconceptions around ageing. Our members want to achieve in life, be active and keep experiencing new things.’
The top 10 most patronising words and the percentage of over 60s that find them demeaning
- Geriatric 65 per cent
- Past it 63 per cent
- Fuddy duddy 58 per cent
- Over the hill 57 per cent
- Fogey 55 per cent
- Crone 55 per cent
- Old dear 53 per cent
- Codger 50 per cent
- Biddy 50 per cent
- Fossil 47 per cent