I’m exploring all aspects of the gift of longevity with my podcast The Big Middle – health, work, science and more. More of us are ageing differently as we live longer in relative good health. We don’t reach for our slippers or keel over when we hit 55. But the so-called developed world is slow to adapt to this reality. The current life model – learn, earn, retire-in-your-half-time-prime – no longer fits. Traditional cliff-edge retirement is surely having its last gasp.
Despite slower growth in life expectancy gains in recent years, we’re getting an average of 10-15 extra years in the middle and refusing to be marginalised as has-beens. We demand appreciation for our resilience, skills and experience. We make future plans. We don’t withdraw to the sidelines and deny ourselves. More of us embrace the changes growing older brings and reject the limits the culture we’ve fabricated insists on placing on our expectations.
I didn’t even know ageism existed until it bit me after my job disappeared in my early 50s. Try as I might in all directions – aside from my natural habitat of news factories – I found I was being relegated to the reject pile by recruiters. They recognised transferable skills but also reached for cliché excuses of “you’re overqualified” or “you’d be bored”. Engaging with the rest of the world, keeping mind sharp and body fit, making a contribution to society – never mind paying bills – is hardly boring.
The ageism we’ve allowed to take root in our culture also puts arbitrary limits on younger people. We need to dismantle ageism across the life course. We need coherent action to achieve age equity. It’s a matter of social justice and a human right to live in a society that doesn’t discount you solely on the basis of your age.
Age equity goes hand in hand with health equity. I’m delving into the science of metabolic health more frequently because it merits much greater attention. The simplistic Calories In, Calories Out narrative has been discredited by the latest science but remains the centrepiece of public health messaging. You’ll hear why that needs to change from the brilliant minds showing us the chronic lifestyle diseases cutting short life expectancy can be prevented.
Background? I’ve travelled the world as a television and radio journalist, managing news teams and presenting, reporting and producing TV programmes and documentaries for the CBC, BBC, SBC (Swiss), Reuters and Euronews.
I’ve hosted and produced current affairs, lifestyle, music and talk radio shows in Switzerland and my native Canada. There have been hundreds of memorable interviews with exceptional folk who seldom have a media megaphone. And hundreds more with academics, politicians, authors, activists and entertainers. Big names include former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and musical greats Ella Fitzgerald, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Ravi Shankar and Tony Bennett.
In recent years, from bases in London and Cape Town, I’ve run a communications consultancy, creating multimedia content and teaching communications and presentation skills to corporate clients, government agencies, NGOs and university students.