The attitude to older workers and the aged has always been poor and shows no sign of changing, writes Greg Cary.

Greg Cary

Greg Cary

Sports writer

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Mick Malthouse is too old. That was the suggestion after Carlton lost their first four games of the season.

Mick had lost his touch, the game had passed him by. For someone who had taken his teams to the finals for the last seven years he lost it in a hurry. Probably never saw it coming. Poor Mick.

Not sure what the problem was with other slow starters – too young perhaps?

Age is an interesting business and a serious one, particularly for a nation with a rapidly ageing population. The baby boomers are either retiring or giving it thought and the weight of expectations on the remaining taxpayers is something with which governments of all persuasions are grappling. In the current environment that’s not easy.

Joe Hockey floated the idea of the pension age being increased gradually (towards the year 2040) and was jumped on from every which direction. Good luck Joe.

Part of the problem was that he didn’t address other issues that act in tandem with pension entitlements – superannuation, the tax system and importantly our attitude to the aged. The aged? Make that those who are north of 40.

It seems dreadfully unfair to be even hinting at the idea of working longer when many in that demographic would love to be working now but have long ago given up the ghost.

Our attitude to “older” workers – and the aged in general – has always been poor and shows no sign of changing. And it must. Fact is, the pension age will rise. And where only a hundred years ago the life expectancy was 60, it will soon be 100. So what to do with all those middle-aged 70-year-olds?

Not all answers have dollar signs in front of them and we can go a long way towards resolving this problem by addressing those attitudes – which brings us back to Mick.

I’m not sure when he became too old to be a head coach. Certainly not when he won his last premiership as recently as 2010. Yes, people can get tired of jobs and professions but that can as easily happen at 30 as 60.

Likewise those inclined to keep learning and adapting have the advantage of life experience that those of fewer years lack.

It’s hard to generalise with this stuff but that’s exactly what’s happening, as many workers over 40 (let alone 65) will confirm. Mick’s “advancing” years were making news at the same time Bubba Watson was winning his second US Masters. The commentators seemed stunned that some of the game’s elder statesmen – including Couples and Jiminez – should be in contention.

On a course requiring talent, knowledge and patience it is really no surprise. Happens every year in fact. Why make such a big deal of it? Obviously the physicality of sport can present challenges at a certain point but that point is arbitrary and there’s many a 70-year-old these days that could beat many a 25-year-old in a marathon. And much else.

Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a time when people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin – a noble aspiration towards which we have made great strides.

We need now to become equally blind to the fiction of age. Oh, and how old is Mick anyway? Don’t know. Don’t care.