You might not know this, but on the wall of every single cosmetic company in the whole entire world, there is a sign that reads: when all else fails, scare the living crap out of them.
Exhibit A: The latest, “ahem” research from tanning company St Tropez that claims women look their oldest at 3:30pm on Wednesdays.
Yes, please note use of the word “oldest”. Because we’re not just talking a little bit rough around the edges here, ladies - we are talking REALLY, REALLY OLD. As in, you-could-be-mistaken-for-your-own-grandmother, kind of old.
When Peter Costello famously encouraged Australian families to have a child for Mum, one for Dad and one for the country, he was focused on a significant national challenge, the ageing of the population.
Population ageing is the product of two demographic trends, longevity and a declining birthrate. It is a challenge for many western nations, including Australia.
Australians are living longer, on average, than at any time in the past. While this will increase costs, especially for aged and health care, it is not an insurmountable problem. It is the combination of longer living and declining fertility that threatens the economic growth of the nation.
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Today The Punch team has each selected two issues which get us hot under the collar, and which we feel deserve more airplay.
What are your thoughts on the issues we’ve chosen? And what other issues do you think we should all be talking about?
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“I don’t want to alarm you”. That’s what people say whenever they’re about to unload some panic attack-inducing horror on you. It follows, then, that what I’m about to tell you is very alarming indeed. There is something strange and terrifyingly confusing happening in our world.
Two weeks ago, 104-year-old British woman Peggy McAlpine hurled herself off a Cypriot cliff in a bid to reclaim the record she lost to then 101-year-old Mary Hardison some five years ago. She is, once again, the world’s oldest paraglider.
Meanwhile, Chinese grandmother Sun Fengqin, 60, has become became famous for regularly attending pole-dancing classes.
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Two minute nuptials and a slap up lunch at the International House of Pancakes. She fixed his hearing aid and he called her “Mama”.
It wouldn’t make the pages of Belle bridal magazine, but efficiency not glamour, was the order of the day for the world’s oldest married couple.
After 18 years together, 95 year-old Lillian Hartley and 98 year-old Allan Marks, tied the knot at Riverside county office in Palm Springs, California.
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Five hundred episodes and 23 seasons into its extraordinary life, the Simpsons is a pop culture phenom like no other. Interestingly, it was once regarded as counter-cultural and dangerous. Now it’s considered as American as apple pie.
Much has changed in American life over 23 years. Two generations of Bush presidents have come and gone. The internet became a tool for people other than academics and computer geeks. Greed was good. Then bad. Then good, but with bad consequences.
But one thing has stayed the same. The Simpsons have not aged. Neither has anyone else in Springfield. Homer is still 36, paunchy and severely balding. Lisa is still eight and precocious. Maggie still sucks her dummy. Mr Burns is still about 1,000 years old, not 1,023.
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Someone once told me that when people reach a certain age they begin dressing in the manner they did at the happiest time in their life.
The same often goes for elderly people with severe dementia, who can keenly recall the minute details of life when they were happiest. My 80 year old grandmother did not recognise me at all in the last six months of her life, but she would talk about her sons as if they were still young teenagers. She was a homemaker and it was the most joyful time in her life
That’s what I think about when I watch the brilliant video above about hipsters, the future and social media.
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The existence of a fountain of youth that restores the health and youth of anyone bathing in its waters has tantalised humanity for centuries.
Substitute the mythical water for modern-day medicine and we could, in the next decade, see medicines that slow the ageing process and help us live to 150 years old.
Life expectancy in Australia is already on a positive trend. At the beginning of the 20th Century, life expectancy at birth was about 55 years for males and 59 years for females.
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Where did we Australians get this idea that 50 is old, too old, over the hill? Since becoming Age Discrimination Commissioner, I have been asked this question many times. I can’t answer it.
But we have to find an answer. We have to get rid of this damaging idea. Because of it, too many people are being forced out of their jobs when they have barely turned 50. When they apply for a new job, they are often ignored, or fobbed off with excuses like, “You are overqualified”, or “We are looking for someone with lots of energy”! This fob-off is not only insulting, not only damaging to the well-qualified, motivated mature worker, it leads him or her on the downward path to poverty in old age.
If sustained, these experiences can lead to depression. After all, everyone needs to feel useful, to get recognition for a job well done. We all enjoy the company of fellow workers, and most of us need to earn money and grow our super, well into our 60’s and beyond. If all this is denied us, just because of prejudice, we suffer. And, tragic as it is, this is not just about the waste of individuals.
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Dear body, I’m writing to say sorry. You’ve copped a right hammering over the years. Honestly, you could take yourself off to a home for battered bodies, on account of the physical and emotional abuse you’ve endured.
Sure, I’ve never cut you, starved you or shoved heroin into you. But there’s something pretty ugly about constantly comparing you and always finding you wanting. Slimmer, more sculpted, wider-eyed, smaller-nosed, longer-limbed, more honey-toned, less freckly, less spotted, less wrinkled, less… just less, freakin’ less of you. Especially you, thighs – you’ve ruined my life.
For a long time, I thought I was the only one haranguing you for your inadequacies. Turns out, we’re all at it.
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When this new picture for my column (headshot) was emailed to me, I zoomed in. And zoomed in again.
What do you reckon I saw? Smart top? Nice jeans? Fab blow-dry? Nope. I saw lines. Big parenthesis-shaped ones running Jack Nicholson Joker-style from my nose to my chin. You didn’t notice? You do now.
Apparently, they’re called nasolabial folds and are caused by ageing and laughing – which is unfortunate because, short of sticking myself in the deep freeze or being perpetually glum, they’re only going to get worse.
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Early-onset or ‘precocious’ puberty is on the rise, thanks to increasing child obesity levels and possibly environmental hormones.
Now, scientists from the Conds Institute have pinpointed a trend towards early-onset middle age, and their hypothesis is that it could also have to do with obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
They warn that Australians in their 30s or early 40s may already be experiencing a range of symptoms including stray hair, inadvertent grunting, and increasing issues with bodily secretions.
Recently I had dinner with a senior diplomat who spoke bravely about confronting the sheer horror of turning 50. The unwavering march of the calendar date toward him was ruthless.
In the meantime he was stubbornly holding on to being in his forties. As a 43-year-old myself, he desperately looked in my direction in search of a common age identity.
In youth growing old was good. Age brought an end to study, hopefully a nice job, and with it economic emancipation. Age was also a ticket to fun: independence, romance, and booze.
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The queue of mature cinema-goers that snaked its way on Saturday night from the local art house cinema, and halfway out of the shopping complex that houses it, looked more like something you would expect at a summer rock festival than in the leafy private school belt.
(Here’s a cinema interview that the 40 plus types will like)
But people will queue - because in the 40+ market, the cinema seems to have triumphed. This particular venue has refined its product to the point where the mirrors in the bathroom don’t show anything below the bosom, and the lights Photoshop you in a flattering 40w - which is ideal for any middle-aged viewer as she mulls over what to select at the candy bar.
Not so long ago, the potential supremacy of the cinema as a leisure activity was undermined by the absence of alcohol. But this hurdle has now been overcome - with the double-edged result that you can experience the tension in your bladder rise in tandem with the tension in the plot.
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What do you do with your life when what is left can be counted in years, rather than decades?
When the realisation hits that you are sliding into oblivion?
This new fear is aided and abetted by the overwhelming attitude of the community towards the elderly.
One of the great myths is that we grow old gracefully.
Absolute rubbish. We lurch from being young, active and viable, too old, useless and invisible in the snap of an eye.
There’s nothing graceful about it.
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When it comes to questions of population, ignorance often prevails. The business lobby in Australia, often through its many and varied “independent” centres and institutes, leads the way.
Through its complex web of public relations activities, it pushes its population growth propaganda, specialising in denial.
Here are some facts:
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AS a twenty-something, I have a real mind to send Steve Jobs a nasty email for ruining my retirement.
I was looking forward to marvelling at some new whiz-bang contraption in my twilight years, while telling some young punk how, in my day, iPads didn’t support Flash. Thanks to Jobs and his high-waisted jeans, however, it will be a lot less starry-eyed wonder and whole lot more humbug.
When I’m 84 and daytime telly’s been cancelled because the last of the Andrew O’Keefe clones has died in a bizarre Ready, Steady Cook accident, I’ll be bored stiff.
I’ve upset a lot of people over the years. At first I thought this was due to my unwavering history of frank and fearless journalism but it turns out people just find me rather annoying.
It is for this reason that I find the euthanasia debate a little bit worrying. I’ve seen the way my mother looks at me sometimes.
There are also fiscal considerations. I am already in my mid-thirties and drink and smoke far too much. If I were bumped off now it would likely save the hospital system a great deal of money and - from what my bosses tell me - have no discernible impact on national productivity.
This is not just a fear for myself of course but a fear for all of us who are vulnerable at times.
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Questions about ageing are usually left to philosophers, surgeons and casting agents. But this week, the people had their say.
According to research from the esteemed European Social Survey, the average Briton thinks middle age starts at 36 and old age begins at 59.
It’s a big slap in the face for all those in their 30s and 40s who thought that because they still listened to Triple J, went to tapas bars and had a current gym membership, they still qualified as young.
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Thousands of old people, watching a group of old men dance around in front of the Hogwarts Express. This is rock and roll.
Almost 50,000 sets of wrinkled fingers twist into pathetic hand-grimaces – weak parodies of the famous devil horns.
The Hogwarts Express is now being ridden by a gigantic inflatable caricature of Barbara Windsor - with breasts that are literally bigger than my Dad’s car. Bigger than the 4WDs owned by half of the audience.
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This week’s release of the 2010 Intergenerational Report by Treasurer Wayne Swan brought the issue of mature-age workers rightly into the spotlight.
Few issues are as important to our nation’s future as responding to the long-term trend of an ageing population.
It was therefore disappointing to see the inflammatory response of Coalition Seniors spokesperson Bronwyn Bishop claiming that the Government was demonising older people and forcing them to work until they drop.
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There is nothing new in the mid summer sermons of Prime Minister Rudd as he meanders across the Australian continent.
The fact that health expenses are rising faster than inflation is not a revelation it is simply a well known fact. Neither is it new that the population is ageing. This simply means that people are living longer and healthier lives and is a cause for celebration, not morbid prognostications.
What is new is that Mr Rudd is blaming older Australians for the cost blowout.
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