I’ve always thought western society was terribly ageist, and I don’t just mean ‘showbiz’ folk but across the board. Then our government insisted the ‘overseventies’ (horrible expression) were part of the ‘vulnerables’ (an even more horrible expression) and should remain in lockdown (the most horrible expression of all) until a vaccine is found. That was utter discrimination against the hardy individuals who have no health issues. But more harmful was bolstering the existing belief among the general public (and prospective employers) that the old should keep out of everyone’s way.
Just before lockdown we were planning to have dinner with Piers Morgan and when I texted him to check if it was still on, I received a manifesto explaining that he ‘didn’t want to be responsible’ for my untimely death! The 88-year-old actor who plays Ken Barlow in Coronation Street is allegedly barred from work for this same reason. On a recent exercise walk in the park, my dear friend Christopher Biggins was accosted twice by ‘coronags’ yelling that someone of his age should be at home.
I am in this ‘over-seventies’ group but, having never defined myself by age, I’m not about to start now. I married a man three decades younger, and at my last check-up my GP said I was ‘stunningly healthy’. I am lucky to possess enormous energy and enthusiasm for life. In fact, my husband is often quoted saying that I had to marry a younger man as my pace would probably have killed someone my own age by now. There are hundreds of thousands of others who feel the same way. Sadly, ageism is the last tolerated prejudice. We are not allowed to refer to people as fat and yet it has now been proven that to be obese (almost one third of the UK population) is one of the major contributing factors in Covid deaths. However, if the government had dared to propose that they too should remain confined it would cause outrage.
This article is an extract from Joan Collins's Spectator Diary, available in this week's magazine.