Do the numbers add up in life?

Kettering, B&Q, Meadow Rd. Clifford Sarjeant, 87, is the second oldest B&Q employee in the UK'Wednesday 16th November 2011
Kettering, B&Q, Meadow Rd. Clifford Sarjeant, 87, is the second oldest B&Q employee in the UK'Wednesday 16th November 2011

They say age is just a state of mind – but not according to a new survey by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Fifty-nine apparently marks the start of official ‘old age’, while your 41st birthday is the point at which you are no longer ‘young’.

Yet according to the younger generation, old age sets in even earlier. The under 25s believe youth ends when people turn 32 and 54 is the age at which you become old.

However, those over 80 believe you don’t stop being young until you’re 52.

The DWP surveyed more than 2,000 for its report, called Attitudes to Age in Britain, which also revealed that just over a third of people have experienced some form of age discrimination.

Surprisingly, under 25s were twice as likely to have been penalised because of their age than any other age group.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said: “The idea that we are old at 59 belongs in the era of Downton Abbey – not in 2012.

“People today are living longer, working longer and contributing more in their later lives.

“This is great news and it is important that our perceptions of age keep up with the reality of our increasing longevity.”

One person who would agree with that is 87-year-old Cliff Sarjeant, who works at the B&Q store in Kettering and plans to continue working until he is 100.

The great-grandfather, of Thorpe Malsor, was already past retirement age when he started work as a greeter more than 20 years ago.

He said: “I love it so much, I don’t want to retire.

“I wouldn’t pack it up for the world. If I can carry on until 100 I will do.”

Mr Sarjeant, who has worked in retail since he left the Army after the Second World War, works four hours every Wednesday.

So what do readers think about the suggestion that 59 is ‘old’?

Wendy Steele, who is 59, of Wellingborough, said: “If you had seen me playing on the swings at the park and in the sandpit with my granddaughters last weekend, you would not need to ask. We built a big fort!”

Shauna Boyles, of Rushden, said: “Age is a state of mind. If you act and feel old then you are, if you act and feel young then you will be young.

“When asked my age, I always have to think, because in my head I’m 18 – not the 35 my birth certificate says I am!

Jon Millar, of Kettering, said: “I’m 48 today and I’d give ‘youngsters’ a run for their money – although they would win as I’d be lying on the floor gasping for breath and contemplating the nature of stupidity after the first 10 yards!”

The last Attitudes to Age report, published in 2009, found that on average people consider 45 to be the end of youth and 63 the start of old age.

The new report suggest steps are taken to address age discrimination and look more closely at its impact on employers’ attitudes to older workers and levels of unemployment.

It says: “Age discrimination is a problem for young and old alike. A lack of mutual connection and respect across the age range is likely to foster stereotypes, misperceptions and discrimination.

“The findings in this report show that, overall, age-related discrimination and stereotypes are firmly embedded in British society and their scope is wide ranging.

“Tackling age discrimination requires strategies that address individual’s assumptions and attitudes about age – about themselves and others – to ensure that they do not impinge on judgements about a person’s ability, health or rights to services.”