• Amortality by Catherine Mayer

    How old are you, and how old do you feel? If you often feel, and act, at least ten years younger than your real age, chances are you have joined the ranks of the ‘amortals’. Amortals are those of us who refuse to acknowledge that they are growing older, who think nothing of developing a business in their seventies, taking up marathon running in their sixties, or starting a family in their fifties. It also includes, I suppose, the men that we know who dress in ‘amusing’ T shirts and go around on those little kids’ scooters. Women can be amortal, but raising a family makes a woman all too aware of time passing, even if men can continue to have the same habits, hobbies and opinions that they did when they were twenty.

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    Catherine Mayer is a journalist and this book grew out of a series of articles. As such, it is bang on trend, but it suffers from her need to describe everything in terms of stories about her and her metropolitan, creative, celebrity friends. There is not enough consideration of whether the amortals are a passing fad or a more significant reaction to our changing life expectancies. The book hops from an in-depth look at (wealthy, Western) women’s reproductive choices, to a consideration of the place of religion these days, to a look at consumerism. All of these could be better linked by an opinion, or a philosophy, rather than flitting from point to point. Each of these areas is interesting, but she only looks at it from the point of view of a woman who has all the choices available to her to make. I think it might be trickier to flit happily through an amortal lifestyle when decisions about where to live, available jobs, childcare etc are taken out of our control.

    The book is at its best when it made me think about my perceptions of ‘old people’ and what my ‘senior years’ might be like. Of course we all know that grannies these days are more likely to be wearing designer jeans and holding down a career than to be sat by the fire knitting yet another jumper, but it is interesting to consider how we can all contribute to the changing perception.

    ‘Amortals, as they advance in years, hold the key to transforming perceptions of older people by diverting some of their restless energy into showing what older people can do and showing older adults what they can be…Older adults can be freed from the arbitrary constraints of socially constructed meanings of being older.’

    At the end of the book Catherine Mayer offers a short questionnaire to find out if you are amortal. The questions are definitely aimed at the chattering classes – asking about your ideal holiday, what you do on Sunday and your fitness routine. I turned out to have ‘latent amortal tendencies’. I am not sure if I’m pleased by that or not.

    Over all this is an interesting series of articles loosely slung together in a book, and it could have benefitted from more thought and less rush to get it published before the trend subsided. I give it 2 ½ Winos. If you are not an amortal, you won’t be interested in reading about yet another problem that media types manufactured for ourselves. If you are amortal, you’ll be too busy having fun with a younger man to want to read it.


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