Alan Dee – The Queen is in her 80s – but that doesn’t make her a pensioner
Before long I was slightly needled, and it was a short step from there to grumbling anger.
Here’s the seemingly innocent paragraph that triggered my tetchiness: “What do the Queen, Alex Ferguson and Mick Jagger have in common? All have been included on a list of the country’s most influential pensioners.”
The report was all about a list compiled by the charity WRVS of 66 influential old shufflers over the age of 66 in a bid to convince the rest of us that just because you’re getting on a bit doesn’t mean that you’re past it.
Other names on the list, if you’re interested, are supercook Delia Smith, genial globetrotter Michael Palin and David Attenborough, whose career in broadcasting spans more than 50 years.
They’re all national treasures, no doubt.
But there’s one thing that they’re not, one thing that they probably wouldn’t claim to be, and one thing that they should not be described as – and that’s pensioners.
Here’s what a pensioner is, by common understanding. It’s someone who is reliant for the bulk of their income on a state or other occupational pension.
By that definition senior citizens who have always had a free ride on the public purse, like Her Majesty, or still have a full-time job with a whacking great pay packet, like Sir Alex, just don’t count.
Just because you’re old enough to claim a bus pass doesn’t mean you have the time or inclination to be plotting a cross country coach journey, especially if you’ve got chauffeurs and the like ready to get you to wherever you want to go.
Delia has sufficient stacks of cash to be bankrolling a Premier League football team, and I don’t think any of Mr Palin’s planned expeditions includes a trip to the post office on a Thursday morning to pick up his pension.
Pensioner, mind you, does not and should never be taken to mean frail old biddy who smells of cats and spends her days watching Bargain Hunt in an overheated living room.
Nor should it be taken to describe a grumpy gentleman of mature years, rabidly racist opinions and grey hair sprouting from every visible orifice who keeps banging on about how the younger generation have no respect.
They’re just stereotypes, as much as the image of a hooded, monosyllabic teenager bent on necking alcopops and spraying graffiti tags is a stereotype.
Yes, if you look hard enough you’ll find people who fit those descriptions, but they’re very much the minority.
For those of us who accept we are now more likely to be targets of Saga insurance than Club 18-30, it’s a depressing thought that as soon as we qualify for our hard-earned payout after decades of slog and paying taxes everyone younger than us will immediately shift us into the feeble and helpless category and expect us to start snacking on cat food.
Age is, more than ever, only a state of mind.
But if this list aimed to change perceptions, it should have highlighted real pensioners with positive stories to tell – rather than a bunch of millionaires who are of a certain age and are just as much exceptions to the rule as those stereotypical old shufflers.