Peter York On Ads

What do Adam Ant and The Clash make of Parky and the offer of a free Parker pen?
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The Independent Online

I don't think Joan Collins is contemplating retirement. Nor her friend Joan Rivers, though they're both quite mature. With 70 the new 50, people in decent health and with things to do keep on doing them until they're taken out feet first.

Traditional proper jobs have always retired people whether they wanted it or not. The Blogshire Building Society would have a retirement age for counter staff (and a pension fund too) and so would every other kind of proper "old world" job. But in the pioneering sofa cultures of the modern creative Industries, people go from proper jobs – head of art buying, say – to improper ones via consultancy and quango work.

The luckier baby-boomers, now hitting their 60s, are quite startlingly different from their parents. They look different, of course – better health, better dentistry, nice laid-back linen and denim and good accessories – and they think differently too. They keep up culturally – sometimes quite embarrassingly – because they were the first generation to be full-on post-war State Registered Teenagers, so they see the idea of constant novelty as their birthright. They like contemporary art, commissioning new architecture, stand-up and the more genteel kind of National- Treasures-of-Rock gig.

They're so remorselessly modern in some things, it drives their teenage children (second marriage) into a flat spin of Saffy Syndrome (am I my father's keeper?). Dope-smoking, "social" drinking, Smart car-ing, Prada-wearing Miss Sixties are hard going, but things can only get worse.

The punk generation is 50 now and those 1980s New Kids on the Block are pushing on towards it. What expectations will the Thatcher beneficiaries bring to their sixties, let alone the ideas of retirement and death.

Parky, Sir Michael Parkinson in this year's New Year's Honours list, has just retired from broadcasting at 72. I say retired but it doesn't stop him doing other things like writing his autobiography or sitting on inquiries into the state of the nation's cricket.

Or fronting TV commercials. He's in a new one for Axa, the giant global insurer, carrying on the glorious tradition of other mature familiars like June Whitfield, Annette Crosbie and Dame Thora Hird.

Parky's so Northern – such a polite, white-haired, collar-and-tie, golf club, big band-loving type – you don't see him as a contemporary of, say, the very modern, tan and blue-linen Lord Rogers, who's actually two years older.

He's in a static set like the original BBC one, and he's making the link straight back to shared experience – the fascinating people he's met, his wonderful memories. But you might, he says, want to leave more than memories. You might want to look at the Axa Sun Life guaranteed over-50 plans.

It sounds terribly old-fashioned, like those funeral-saving schemes. For £6 a month, it pays up when you're gone and presumably makes sure your children aren't landed with the cost of burying or burning you.

It's a doddle, he says: they don't ask any nasty health questions and you're guaranteed to be accepted. And there's a free Parker pen just for enquiring. Parky looks mournful throughout this. He'd rather not be there.

But over 50! That means he's notionally pitching at a completely different demographic. Somehow I can't see this approach cutting it with Adam Ant or the surviving members of The Clash.

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