The boss was not happy. I had just come back from the studio having read Radio Clyde’s two o’clock bulletin. The legendary Alex Dickson appeared in the newsroom demanding to see the copy I’d written about a local road accident. I had described the two-car crash and given details of the injured parties including the teenage driver of one car and the elderly passenger in the other.
“This elderly passenger, “Alex asked, “What age did you say he was?”
I looked at my script.
“He’s fifty-five, ” I told him, ” I got that from the police….”
“Fifty-five is not elderly,” Alex interrupted, “That’s the same age as our managing director, Jimmy Gordon. Would you call him elderly?”
“Well, not to his face,” I replied, hoping (and failing) to divert his anger with a feeble joke.
Of course when all this happened, I was still in my twenties and anyone over the age of fifty seemed elderly to me. In the years before becoming a parent, I also had trouble at the other end of the age spectrum. At what age, exactly, did infants become toddlers? I’m sure some of my news bulletins had them marching around the house from the day they were born.
All of which reminds me of the Ageing with Attitude season we ran on BBC Radio Scotland back in 2003. We took over the ballroom at the Grosvenor Hotel and various agencies set up their stalls to prove that life could be worth living as you headed into your sunset years. One of the most popular was the chiropodist. We also, as an experiment, sent young reporter Lisa Summers to the BBC’s make-up artists – the same people who aged Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill in the early episodes of Still Game. I then took Lisa to the BBC’s costume warehouse and we found a coat and hat just like my Auntie Jean’s. (see the video below) After that, we paraded Lisa around the streets and shops of Glasgow so she could experience the prejudice and discrimination that older people sometimes had to endure.
That was sixteen years ago and I’m happy to report that Lisa Summers, now BBC Scotland’s Health Correspondent, and a regular face on Reporting Scotland, hasn’t aged a bit. I, on the other hand … well, let’s not go there.