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It’s the age

A woman with short, white hair is standing in front of a multicoloured and vibrant shop shutter. She is wearing a bright red, leather coat with a black top and sunglasses. She has a wide, happy smile.
Mindy at Pride, credit to Gemma Taylor on Ageingbetter Resource space

None of us are getting any younger.

Have you heard that phrase a lot? I have yet to decide whether I think it’s offensive or not. Is it so terrible to age? Surely, some things do get better with age – like wine. OK, joking aside, think of how age (and here, I’m thinking of the older generations) is represented in ELT materials.

Can I take a guess?

Maybe in listening activities or reading texts, it may be that the older generation are depicted as having no clue with technology and are reliant on the younger generation to help or teach them. It may be that a grandfather or grandmother is in hospital or needs jobs doing for them because they can’t manage on their own. Or it could be the ‘superhero’ granny doing incredible things just because she’s older.

Now, of course, there may be people like this in reality who do need help and who don’t understand technology – but only seeing these representations in ELT coursebooks is just perpetuating the stereotype.

Why don’t we ever see older people exercising where age doesn’t even come into it or get mentioned?

There are images out there for this, you just need to know where to look. But even if there are no images needed, why can’t older people be shown doing stuff that they would do in everyday life? My mum, for example, spends a lot of time playing games on her tablet – yes, she likes reading and puzzles too, but they don’t define her as an older person – it’s just a part of her intersectionality.

Some older people work, some older people don’t. Some older people are married, some older people are single. Some older people are LGBTQ+, some older people aren’t. Some older people have children, some older people don’t.
We must remember to represent a wide range of people within their own ‘category’ (for want of a better word). The images used in this post come from the Centre for Ageing Better and their resource page. Please do let me know in the comments (on here or on social media) if you know of any other resources like this.

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