November 25th 2009
The ‘otherness’ of the older woman
It is very common for people to quote in an amused way their older relatives say “No I would not want to go to a retirement home and stay with all these old people”.
Of course the word ‘old’ is full of meanings and the reluctance to admit that one is old is prevalent nearly everywhere. There are some myths that being old is in some societies more appreciated, more respected, valued than in our western societies but it is only very recently that 80+, 90+ people enjoy healthy ageing.
When I first started to show films featuring women of 60 years and over to my contemporaries, I was 63. Some of the women in the groups were older, but one thing is certain is that time and again I noticed that women when discussing the film and their feelings about it, and in particular the old woman role, referred not to themselves but to their mothers, their aunts, their neighbours, never to themselves.
Now 12 years later at a showing of a film at the Phoenix in their Older “Women and Film” season, some women were of my age and older, and one woman declared being 84. Still the same phenomenon occurred the comparison was made between the women on the screen and mothers alive or dead. Not with themselves.
In discussions the question is not often posed in the following way : “Would I like to be portrayed like that?” “Does this correspond to my personal lived experience?”. “What does this film say about ageing and the way older women are perceived ?”
Why are older women ‘other’ even to older women?