Day of the Elderly

by , under life, o tempora

I didn’t go swimming this morning. It’s “dag van de ouderen”, “day of older people”. When another swimmer and I (both in our mid-fifties) asked how old one should be to be invited, Warm Water Man assured us that we were in the target demographic. Both of us said we didn’t feel called.

The day is full of activities — Nordic walking, kickbike, wood-fired sauna, health information, music-while-you-swim. I know from previous activity days that the music is likely to be, well, not to my taste. My other half says, sensibly, that the people who are ten years older than me are likely to have grown up with the Rolling Stones, but I wish they’d play that though I don’t like it all that much: it’s usually either Sky Radio or Dutch evergreens. And I do like sauna, but not everybody likely to be there is someone I want to be in a tiny cubicle with. Nordic walking– well, I don’t much mind looking ridiculous, but I’d rather not look ridiculous in a group. Kickbiking might be nice but I’m not sure that my back and knees like it; moreover there were so few people on the list for it that they may well have called it off.

All of this I could ignore if it wasn’t for the fact that swimming also counted as an “activity” so anybody wanting to swim was charged € 4,15 even if they had a pass. “I guess we didn’t think that through,” Warm Water Man said. I suppose if I’d gone and asked nicely he’d have let me in, but I’d already decided against going and I wasn’t looking forward to the music and the obligate healthy-aging information anyway, even apart from being assigned to a group I don’t identify with (cue completely different rant about assumptions on the basis of one or a few characteristics: “you’re a teenager so you prefer pop music to classical”, “you’re a man so you want to read about soccer and cars”, “you’re from Russia so you drink a lot”).

Someone said “yes, but it will be so good to have a couple of younger seniors there!” but I don’t feel called to be a token Younger Senior.

There was another activity day just like this a couple of weeks ago, organised by (and in) a couple of care homes. That one probably met its purpose much better: to get sedentary old people moving. The people who go to the swimming pool are already getting exercise, and anyway they’re not all old. If what they want is to offer exercise tailored to people who aren’t optimally fit they might use less unfortunate phrasing; now they antagonise the ninety-year-old who runs half-marathons, and the thirty-year-old with cerebral palsy, and the middle-aged who don’t want to be lumped into the “old” category. Everybody, in fact, except the people who fit the stereotype and/or are in it for the social aspects.

Another possibility is that it’s set up to attract more people to the (financially ailing) swimming pool, but I don’t think that works either: not only is it marketed mostly to the existing users of the pool, but any new people come for the activities, not for the pool’s normal operation. That they didn’t come earlier wasn’t because they didn’t know it was there, but because there was nothing to do there that they happened to want to do. It’s impossible to have activities all the time, and if it was possible it would probably put off as many people as it attracted.


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