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Ditch the over 50s stereotype

Posted in: Wellbeing Last updated: 13 Nov 2014

Growing older is a liberating opportunity to reinvent yourself and a prime time to live life to the full. Yet this view on later life is rarely reflected in the media, with over 50s frequently being labelled as ‘old’ and ‘over the hill’. Not to mention patronising TV advertisements which characterise anyone past 50 as belonging to the same homogeneous group, and fashion retailers who simply just don’t get it.

Almost half of over 65s have experienced ageism


A survey conducted by YouGov found that almost half of over 65s (47%) complained of ageism [1]. Even well-known celebrities have been subject to such behaviour – Carol Vordermon was rumoured to have been sacked from Countdown for being too old, after later being replaced with a younger counterpart.

50 something Kate McIntyre is a sterling example of someone who blows society’s perception of ‘being old’ out of the water. We talk to her about how she started fuelling her boundless energy into running, and why she has always believed that age is only a number.

So why does society hold such an ageist view? “Some of this is about our own pre-conceptions” says Kate. “My notion of older people was formed when I was very young – when my experience of grannies and aunts was a twin set and pearls, who were suffering from a series of health issues and faced a shorter life expectancy as a consequence.” No wonder then, that with a more limited lifestyle, they had a much older outlook on life.

Changing perceptions is hard


 “Changing this perception is hard” says Kate. “The media do everything to re-enforce this biased thinking by lazily using stereotypes: whether it’s hard working families, rosy cheeked old ladies or grumpy old men, ‘old’ people are portrayed as walking with a Zimmer frame, grey haired, sitting in a wing-backed chair and often with dementia.”

“Having said this, older people can equally be their own worst enemy. If they are averse to change or learning new things, or if their minds are closed to the art of the possible, then they allow themselves to be caught in the past.”

“I’m not saying everybody over 50 should be skateboarding, blogging and wearing leggings, but why not if they want to?!”

Age really is a number in Kate’s eyes “I think old age begins if and when you let it. If you behave like an old person when you are 40, then that’s when your old age begins.”

"I think old age is all in the mind. If you keep your mind and body active, and remain excited and engaged by the world around you, then there is no reason to grow old.”

Kate started running at the age of 45 and ran her first marathon just a few months before her 50th birthday. “Since then, I’ve completed 10 marathons, including recently 4 in 4 weeks.  I’m currently training to run 10 marathons in 10 days to support the fantastic work of The Brathay Trust. So far this year I’ve ran over 1,800 miles and I’m currently running between 50-60 miles a week.”

Since turning 50, Kate has accomplished several sprint triathlons, and after being egged on by a good friend, also completed a Half Iron Man. “There were three of us, all women over 50, doing it! This comprises a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a half marathon. It was brilliant fun and we had a real sense of achievement afterwards.”

“My lovely, long-suffering hubby (also over 50) is a very keen cyclist, who has cycled both JOGLE and LEJOG” says Kate. “This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to cycle a century with him i.e. a 100 mile bike ride. In August we cycled the York 100 (it’s actually 102 miles): I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, although there was a terrible headwind in the second half which made it really hard work.”

There are countless reasons why running is Kate’s number one passion “There are so many aspects to enjoy: being out in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, time to reflect on life, a rush of positive endorphins and the ability to eat as many cakes as I like without worrying about my weight! Most of my friends and colleagues think I’m bonkers, but I love running.”

Kate has no plans to retire from her hobby “I hope I will be able to keep running and cycling for years to come. The oldest man who recently did the London Marathon was 101, so I should have years of running left to look forward to!”

Age is all in the mind


“I’ve known 90 year olds who don’t act like old people. I think old age is all in the mind. If you keep your mind and body active, and remain excited and engaged by the world around you, then there is no reason to grow old.”

Being over 50 has given Kate a new lease of life “I have the confidence to know who I am, and to be who I am. I’m lucky to be fit and healthy and I feel that it’s important to live life to the full for as long as I possibly can.”

“They say that 60 is the new 40. As life expectancy increases, medical advances are made and people also work for longer, there is no reason for everybody not to remain ‘young’ for a very long time!”

Sources

[1] BBC (August, 2013) “Few over-65s feel old but half object to ageism – survey” [online]. Available from www.bbc.co.uk

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