Over-50s are told to take pride in grey power

Click to follow
The Independent Online

She overcame the taboo of obesity and told people to take pride in their bodies. Now the founder of Weight Watchers UK is telling people to take pride in their age.

Bernice Weston aims to make her latest venture, Agepower, as big a name in Britain as the diet plan she set up 23 years ago which boasts a club in virtually every town and 6,000 meetings a week.

In a fierce attack on Labour acolytes who derided pensioners as racist and Tory, Ms Weston described the party as "a bunch of s***s" who had betrayed the elderly.

"The time has come for British pensioners to get angry and fight against discrimination," she said yesterday. With more people over 75 than under 18 there would be an "inter-generational war by 2020."

The mix of issues discussed at the US clubs include nutrition, exercise, starting a career or relationship and even how to deal with an attacker.

Ms Weston said job adverts placed by UK firms often specify an upper age limit. It has been 33 years since that was legal in the US.

She said President Clinton owed his re-election to the American Association of Retired Persons - America's largest pressure group.

Agepower will be funded with the fortune from her three Weight Watchers cook books, which sold over a million copies each. But whereas Weight Watchers appealed to women, she believes most Agepower members will be men.

"When a man loses his job he no longer knows who he is; he defines himself by his job," she said. "These people have to understand experience gives them value. But there's no such thing as retirement."

New York-born Ms Weston is talking with companies such as Merrill Lynch and IBM to help get the elderly back to work.

She said: "Marks and Spencer was in its greatest period when supervisors worked with young people. B&Q opened a store staffed entirely by people over 50 and sold more DIY goods than anyone else."

Ms Weston hopes to mirror an American scheme where 30,000 small businesses employed older people who found retirement boring and depressing.

She plans to team up young, computer literate entrepreneurs with over fifties who have money to invest in new business.

With Virgin's Richard Branson clearly in mind she is looking for a train operator to provide carriages with computers, so pensioners can travel the country with their young teachers.

She also wants pensioner-friendly computers developed. America's Seniornet put 16 million people over 60 on the Internet. Less than 10 per cent of Britain's over 60s are online.

Ms Weston said the computer companies which gave free computers, back up and help-lines to the elderly in the US don't bother in this country.

Comments