THE BLOG

The Cool End of the Edge

06/03/2013 14:10 GMT | Updated 05/05/2013 10:12 BST

When do you stop being 'edgy'? Is there an age limit on the 'cool' franchise? Once you've past the threshold of 50, society is already preparing you for a cosy fire, fluffy slippers, daytime TV and the hot cocoa of retirement!

Every now and then something happens to make me realise that if I had been 25 years younger (which to put into my perspective is a whole son away age-wise) I might have clinched the deal. Since when did society become so judgemental about age? It's not just face to face either - I removed my age from my Facebook page as got fed up with seeing advertising for menopause remedies and incontinence pads alongside my profile! As if!

There's no getting away from it but some people are just too cool to connect with anybody over 40, let alone 50 or 60! Which is a great shame because when I was in my teens and my twenties, just starting out career-wise, I was privileged to work with some of the coolest people on the planet, who were all well above the age of edginess, pushing 60 and even 70. They became my mentors, heroes and teachers - all with fabulous stories to tell and a wealth of experience that you just can't buy these days!

It seems that the age of the worldwide web has made the workplace youth crazy with young media types hovering virtually and impatiently in every corner, waiting to take away the power of people so revered by my age group. Everything is disposable, rushed and one dimensional and we've forgotten how to treasure those people who have stories and anecdotes to share and, most importantly, huge banks of knowledge to impart. You've heard the phrase 'slow food' so what's wrong with some serious 'face time' with your elders?

Barely into my twenties I got a job at glossy magazine, Harpers & Queen. It was the late 1970s when Sloane Rangers were in fashion and I was surrounded by glamorous and successful publishing icons spanning a huge age range from their 40s and into their 60s - Willie Landels, Min Hogg, Lesley Kenton, Ann Barr and more. To me their age was irrelevant - it was the people that mattered and their incredible confidence and skill to connect inspired me. They were generous and often kind; using their contacts to help us young things find our own way up the ladder to success!

We revere older actors and, even given a Botox jab and a facelift or two, who cares what they look like really? So why is there still an inherent ageism pervading the media? It's more noticeable that female actors get side-lined for younger, prettier models, and I have even noticed that female presenters gracing the popular new academic documentary genre are getting steadily younger and more glamorous. Keep the likes of Mary Beard OBE on our small screens, please, - don't sell out where brains count far more than looks!

So it really is time to accept that 50 is the new 40, 60 is the new 50 and so on. Instead of celebrating the spurious literary success of 'Fifty Shades of Grey', which has clearly been marketed to get into the big knickers of the middle-aged middle-classes, let's focus on the achievement of U3A which has been getting the grey matter of the older generation to work. Far more impressive. While the attention is on how we are meant to look and the quest for eternal youth remains prevalent in our society, are we ever going to move on?

There's just one more twist in the tale which knocks on the door of our nation's broadcasters when it comes to women and their age. Older women are not as equally represented on our small screens as men - fact - and then, to add insult to injury, we're often portrayed as parodies of ourselves by male actors, as witnessed in the award winning television sit com 'Mrs Brown's Boys'.

Brilliant comedy actor, Caroline Quentin, was asked to comment on this at the recent Loco Film Festival's 'Working Women' event, and stated that she felt sad that parts like Mrs Brown were played by dragged up men, resulting in the fact that older women are often presented as caricatures. From Downton's acidic 'Cousin Violet', so brilliantly played by 78 year old Dame Maggie Smith, to the loveable clumsiness of Miranda Hart, we women can get the laughs without any interference from men in women's clothing!

Yet the queens of cool are still young and gorgeous with their volumized hair, airbrushed complexions and digitised tawny tapered limbs. Surely it's time for funny to be cool, regardless of age and appearance?

Read HERE about 79 year old Lynn Ruth Miller's experience of being 'cool' on the comedy circuit. Come and chat to her about it on the Funny Women stand at the WOW Festival, Southbank Centre, from this Friday 8th to Sunday 10th March.