Not the same old story

By Terry Joseph

Information recently released by the Ministry of Social Development’s Division of Ageing indicates that, in nine years’ time persons aged between 55 and 64 will outnumber those in the 15 to 25 bracket which, for some of us, is the best news in decades.

According to division head Dr Jennifer Rouse, at present some ten per cent of the population is aged 60 or older and, by 2015, the balance will shift definitively in favour of that group, occasioned by conflicting trends in mortality and fertility, people living longer due to advances in healthcare, while education restrains youth from premature procreation.

Whatever the dominant cause, I’m jubilant. And with more young people succumbing to metropolitan lure, while the original group of imigris return home to retire, within a decade us old fogeys will command the majority and, in celebration, dance in the streets with abandon directly proportionate to stress reduction, each person in the party confident everyone else subscribes to similar values of respect, self-esteem and lawful conduct.

And what a celebration it will be, even if arthritis restricts hands in the air or orthopaedic constraints limit intensity of nobly-intentioned wining. Septuagenerians who do not wish to join the party may play dominoes or draughts on an agreed front porch, while traipsing women network the neighbourhood exchanging pies and pleasantries; all knowing their homes and integrity will remain intact.

Let us face it: One of the primary reasons for the rise in hypertension (and accompanying health challenges) among the elderly, is the very 15 to 25 age bloc, which contains a small but loud and marauding minority intent on making life hell for old folks. As a rule, young maxi-taxi drivers avoid picking up anyone with a walking-cane, for fear the process of embarking and alighting will take too long and consequently disturb the day’s revenue.

It is a microcosm of general disrespect meted out to the more mature mostly by young men, mere tykes, really, who construe physical impediments brought on by advancing age as a sure sign the limping man has outlived usefulness. Long ago, addressing a senior citizen as “uncle” or “tantie” showed deference. Today, it somehow sounds like a countdown.

But who the hell gave these juniors, little boys forced to walk like penguins because they can’t align pants crotch and pelvis, urchins unable to correctly pronounce (or, far worse, spell) even home-grown words like “Manzanilla”, the right to determine destiny for those whose hard work cleared the current path?

Frankly, we haven’t had much luck with today’s youth, a piteous lot hell-bent on hastening their own departure through senseless violence, drunk or reckless driving, sexually-transmitted diseases and other suicidal excesses, romancing a “Billy-the-Kid” existence, as instructed by hip-hop idiots incessantly tutoring them on how to “get rich or die trying.” In the US, from which such advice comes, Washington DC has legally imposed a curfew on teenagers.

Back home, youth is a little short on glory stories, largely construing success on an uncommonly simplistic level, feeling a sense of supreme achievement by rocketing their “pimped-up” cars down the shoulder of the highway and cutting in at last opportunity, badgering elderly drivers into submission and forcing yet another trip to the cardiologist.

This is not to conclude every young person is part of the larger nemesis for, in that same category, there are more than a few sterling examples, opting for mastery of arts and sciences at no sacrifice of stock adolescent experiences, teenagers who have no desire to attend the outrageous Water Colours fete or go to parties with themes like “No Drawers” or “Til’ Drunk Do Us Part.”

Many parents of these ubiquitous miscreants are themselves causatively culpable, allowing their kids to adopt speech and style of the most vulgar social denominator, only to later lament through streaming tears about what could have been, as they visit the boy at either rehab or jail or, for that matter, when placing flowers on his grave.

Robert Browning’s Pied-Piper of Hamelin Town demonstrated singular sagacity in punishing adults who failed to deliver on their collective promise. Perhaps by playing a different tune a modern equivalent could entice intransigent youth, misguided mothers and deadbeat dads to a truly distant place, sparing us such irritants forever.

To merely corral the disturbing elements of today’s youth and eliminate them from the social equation but leave behind delinquent parents would spoil the planned fete and return us, perhaps with greater swiftness, to the same old story.