Jeremy Paxman was causing controversy again last week. It seems that he found a copy of a free newspaper for people aged over 50 called the Mature Times in a hotel reception. Paxman, who at 66 might be regarded as the paper’s target audience, was so appalled by what he read that he set off on one of his characteristic rants, describing it as a “dreary publication” full of adverts for “cruises in the company of other virtual corpses”. He even suggested a number of alternative names for the paper, including “The Surgical Stocking Sentinel” and “Winceyette Weekly”.
Andrew Silk, the publisher of Mature Times was understandably less than pleased and retaliated by telling Paxman to “get stuffed” and demanding that he issue an apology for insulting the over 50s. I can’t help thinking that Silk has missed the point. Paxman was not insulting the over 50s, he was mainly taking issue with the way in which our society, and media outlets such as the Mature Times, stereotype older people.
Although not quite as “mature” as Paxman, I am over 50 and have on occasion picked up a copy of the Mature Times. I have to say that I agree with Paxman. Articles and adverts about reclining chairs and mobility aids are of little interest to me and I found the whole thing rather dull and depressing.
Perhaps the problem is one of definition. It used to be that we regarded people over pensionable age (60 or 65) as “old”, but in recent times we seem to have started referring to anyone over 50 as “mature”. For many in the media, “old” and “mature” amount to much the same thing.
I may be mature, but I certainly don’t regard myself as old, I still do most of the things I did a couple of decades ago. If anything, I probably go to the gym and play sport more often now that I did then.
If those of us who are over 50 are in need of a role model we could probably to a lot worse that Keith Richards who, at the age of 72, is continuing to grow old disgracefully. Somehow I can’t imagine Keef subscribing to the Mature Times.