Just because there’s an age-cage, that doesn’t mean we have to walk right in. Or if we do, we can walk right out again. The door isn’t locked — in fact, there is no door, let alone a key, let alone a keeper. Incarceration on the basis of chronological age isn’t mandatory.
However, a short spell in the cage can be salutary, for you discover that elevation, safety and seclusion come at a price.Yes, you are damned by association with the greengrocer’s apostrophe. But the true price you pay is immobility: you can’t dance!
WOMAD: an intergenerational festival on a hill
Last weekend I was at WOMAD New Zealand with two daughters and two grandchildren. Ruby (not her real name) (12) is adamant that we have to keep going to WOMAD every year forever. No hardship! We all love this colourful, crowded, musical bonanza in the divine setting of Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, this 3-day family holiday.
Now, WOMAD NZ is a classic multigenerational festival. Plenty of children, swarms of pre-teens, parents and babies and mid-lifers and, yes, a load of people in their 70s and older.
The venue has a steep hill, enfolding the Brooklands Bowl. Basically, again and again you’re climbing up and down this pretty steep hill as you hurry to the next artist on your list, moving from stage to stage every hour for two and a half days. Disabled people are catered for and there’s a very popular Kidzone — but how about “old people”? We are not deterred. We are there in our thousands.
Who gets a special stand? The “over 65’s”
Three stands provide for, in total, about 180 of the “over 65’s”. As you see from the next photo, the people in the stands are almost indistinguishable from the general crowd. Most wear colourful clothing — the unwritten rule is to wear at least one item that you wouldn’t wear at work or out shopping.
The difference is that in the cage, people are stationary, locked to their seats; and out of the cage, they are moving.
Metaphorical riff on the age-cage
A couple of times I went into the age-cage and each time regretted it within minutes. The music pushed and pulled and begged the audience to dance or at least to twitch or stretch or jiggle. A woman in a purple fascinator began to bum-dance and I danced with my fingers. But moving is not the done thing, not at all. What you have to do is sit in one place, maybe chat a little, maybe eat, maybe cross or uncross your legs. Nobody frowned at us, but to move (except to leave) was a lonely business.
Perhaps the age cage is a like naughty step, a time-out room for oldies to contemplate our bad behaviour… Or like an old-fashioned Rest Room in a department store, a spot where ladies go for a lie down… Or an elite club where we can escape the hoi-polloi… Above all, it’s a safe pozzy for people who need a break from struggling with steps and hills, people who want a good view, and people who can’t easily sit on the ground..
As I’m fit enough to have the luxury of choice, the age-cage is no place to stay for long. Take me back to the not-very-bad behaviour and the hoi-polloi. Take me back to the dancing!