A 69 Year Old Grandmother


 “A 69 year old Brisbane grandmother takes on a US Biotech company in the High Court over human gene ownership, “ ran the lead sentence of a news item on the ABC on June 16. Subsequently, different versions of the headline have appeared , all noting the 69 year old grandmother.

This is a typical example of a news story headlined with the identification of a woman with a specific age, then the title of ‘ grandmother’, followed sometimes by the number of grandchildren.

It is both Ageist and Sexist.

It’s Ageist because she is identified by her age. The implication of noting age in a headline is that it suggests that age has a particular bearing on the content of the story. It’s unusual to read headlines about, “A 34 year old woman .…. “ or, “ A 34 year old man ….” However, it seems that after about 65, people, and particularly women, are often labeled and defined by their age in a headline or first sentence. The significance of their age is then not discussed at all in the article. It is not the defining characteristic of that person in that context.

There seems to be an assumption from some in the media that people, and especially women, over their mid sixties are not active participants in society. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. It’s as if it is only their age which can be seen and which blinds the reporters to such qualities as a strong sense of justice, analysis, and persistence which have brought the individuals to public notice.

This social blindness extends to the Sexist use of ‘grandmother’.

Now, let’s go back to headlines and think of a headline which reads, “A 34 Year Old Childless Woman ….,” or, even stranger, “A 34 Year Old Childless Man …” It would only happen if the childlessness were a key part of the news story. So why was the reproductive information of ‘A 69 year old” included when there was no relevance of her family history to the news item?  

“Grandmother” often seems to be code for something. It suggests an old woman who is nurturing, family focused and who exists outside the interests and issues of the ‘real world’ and about whom nothing else can be said. It seems a matter of great surprise to the reporter that this person is behaving like a member of general society and is also, amazingly, a grandmother.

If you do a quick Google of ‘69 year old grandmother’ you find a strange range of headlines: “Meet saucy 69 year old grandmother from Edinburgh…’, ‘This 69 year old grandmother is as hard as nails – about bench pressing’, ‘Grandma(of course 69) attacks would be car jacker’. It’s interesting that they are all about her physical prowess.

I have very rarely seen a headline identifying a man as a grandfather in the context of a story which is not about grandfathers. Google brought up one about ‘M M is a 69 year old grandfather of four, nurse, black belt..’ and another, ‘Grandfather, 69, shot dead after opening his door to 20 year old man’.

It is difficult to separate the Ageism from the Sexism in this issue and I think that the two sets of careless labeling are tightly interwoven. Men are less likely to be identified by age and their family circumstances.

I do have to declare an interest in this matter. You could attach a variety of labels to me, including the fact that I am both 69 and a grandmother. However, I would not like to to be defined that way unless both labels were the most important part of the context in which they were used.





Back to Tango after Total Hip Replacement: 5 months

It’s been about 4-5 weeks since my last post about actually getting back on the dance floor and a lot has happened. I’m now at the stage where I can do a whole class and a few dances afterwards at the Practica and feel tired but happy. My legs are tired and thighs fairly tight the next day but the tightness goes with some exercise and stretching.

My new hip has made a huge difference to the strength on that leg even though the muscles are still tight and not terribly strong. Generally, my dancing is developing back to being smooth with some very occasional little bits of wobble and loss of control.

Interestingly, I’ve found that my concentration is harder to maintain but that’s improving. I think it’s because I’m still a bit anxious about ‘how I will manage’ and how I will go with different partners.

What has helped me hugely has been Pilates. I found a physio who specializes in hip and core stabilization and have been going to her small, 3 people, classes once a week. She works gradually and progresses the exercises at a really good rate. I have a set of exercises to do at home. She told me to be really careful about the dancing but recognized my need as a ‘mental health’ issue and therefore important to do.

It’s been important to loosen these muscles as they work and strengthen so I go and have a monthly Remedial Massage.

I’m back to taking a low dose anti-inflammatory once a day to help the knees which still have remnants of tenderness from the bursitis and to help the hip joint itself settle down. That helps and, if I need to, take an occasional Panadol Osteo to remove the pain of tightness if I’m going to exercise and want to do that properly.

All in all, I’m at a good stage of strengthening and feeling normal life returning. I do get tired though. The physio says that it takes 6 months to gain strength in the muscles and another 6 months to develop control.


Mountain Tango

   Empty path

Picking my way along narrow, steep mountain paths in the French Alps, I found that I was being accompanied by tango music from our Melbourne Sidewalk Tango classes running through my head. The beat gave a rhythm to my steps which were often up and down and around awkwardly placed rocks. My peripheral vision was of an ongoing rock garden filled with Alpine flowers or snowy peaks or the valley below. However, my attention was always on my feet and the path they were about to walk on – too much scope for accidents otherwise. So I’d stop and stand still if I wanted to look up from the path.

It came to me gradually that I was dancing a sort of tango with the mountain as my partner. I embraced the mountain leaning slightly forward, feet placed firmly and cleanly. Grasping the walking poles, I took care to plant them one at a time in a steady balancing position. There is a direct contact with the mountain. The gaze varies according to the difficulty of the path.

Mountain tango

In the open embrace, when the walking is fairly straightforward with the poles used quite lightly, the gaze is centred in a widish circle slightly ahead of the feet and monitoring where to step. The close embrace is used when the path is steep and rocky. Here the gaze becomes intent on the actual area of the feet and path and the pole grip is firmer and closer to the body. It’s intense and focused. I realized that when I was lifting my foot and leg cleanly and neatly over and around rocks so as not to trip, I was actually doing Decorations.

There’s a closeness between me and the mountain path where I have to be attentive to its every configuration and follow its lead. Sometimes it leads me in a steady, smooth walk, sometimes it will ask me to step over a rock, or, with more complexity, ask me to choose a series of short, safe foot places in a short rock climb.

My body and mind are totally engaged in this tango with the mountain.


You’ll note the dress code is very different for mountain tango.