If you ask me, a study revealing that only 18 per cent of all television presenters over 50 are women would make me want to tear my hair out, if only I weren’t so aware that I am thinning splendidly without any assistance, so best not. But this sense that older women are no longer of any use not just on television, but to society generally, and should hide themselves away and stop cluttering up the place? Oh, come on. I can think of so many ways in which older women could be invaluable.
They could, for example, be put to excellent use in the home. One older woman I know has, for instance, put herself to work as a kitchen step-stool, and although she wasn’t initially convinced that it was the best use of all the wisdom she has accrued over an interestingly varied life, she is beginning to see the benefit. “It’s not especially comfortable, as I’m on all fours and am constantly being shifted from one end of the kitchen to the other, but, my God, it’s good to feel valued and important again, and good to know that no one would have been able to reach the flour without me.”
There are uses for older women in the garden, too, where they can be counted upon to make a lovely trellis. You may say that it has to be extremely boring, standing there day and night, limbs splayed, and with a clematis growing up you, but the older women who have chosen this option insist they have rediscovered a sense of purpose. As one puts it: “I would say to any older woman who feels as if she’s been tossed on the scrapheap: it’s your own fault, you’re just not trying hard enough to find meaning in your life. This clematis would be lost without me. In fact, if I were to walk away tomorrow, it would die!”
I could go on and on, as there are so many ways that older women could be out there, making themselves useful – Mavis Nicholson and Gloria Hunniford, I have to tell you, love putting all their years of experience to good use as goalposts down the park – and so it’s time to stop carping, and to just get on with it. True, men get to go on and on and on and on whatever, but as Julia Somerville, who now loans herself out as a hat for weddings, once confided: “I get a smashing view of the proceedings, and am often much admired, so put that in your pipe and smoke it, David Dimbleby. And David Attenborough. And Michael Palin. And John Humphrys. And Jeremy Paxman ...” God bless Julia Somerville, but she can go on a bit.