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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 10:15 GMT
'Show some respect'
Little Britain's gag about senile incontinence
Little Britain's weeing granny
Little Britain's incontinent granny is the tip of the iceberg - older women are seen as fuddy duddies, frumpy or desperate, says Isobel Pilkington in our new Readers' Column. If you'd like to write a column, tell us using the form below.

Why is Nana Moon one of the few elderly ladies represented on television in a sympathetic light?

Don't people have fond recollections of relationships with their grannies any more?

As I have passed 50, I have become aware of the distaste with which older people - women particularly - are regarded. It's a spin-off of the "adoration of youth and beauty" culture which exploded in the 1960s, but its roots lie deeper, as a reading of Chaucer's Wife of Bath prologue and tale reveal.

Contemporary comedy portrays older women as hideous and sexually repulsive
Isobel Pilkington, of Telford, Shropshire

Only women in power or ageing celebrities occasionally get a good press. Just look at the appalling things said about Camilla, a pleasant and smart-looking woman. This is because she isn't Diana or, more specifically, a young Diana.

Helen Mirren, a national treasure, turns up in a revealing corset dress. She gets good press, much of it rather patronising - "doesn't she look marvellous for her age". If she'd gone Camilla's route of glamorous yet decorous, she'd be called frumpy.

But the most invidious form of anti-feminism is in contemporary humour. Older women are portrayed as hideous and sexually repulsive - far more so than elderly men.

Strictly Come Dancing's Esther Rantzen, left, and Gloria Hunniford
Sex it up, or fun but not flirty?
Is because men retain fertility until they die? Nobody seems horrified when Rod Stewart fathers another child at 60, but a sexually active 60-year-old woman is considered vile or absurd.

Little Britain is a leading exponent of this sort of humour - the elderly lady urinating in the supermarket, the mother breast-feeding her adult son, the grandma desired by a teenager.

No Luddite

This week I flicked on the news and was also startled to see an item about how many people over 70 use mobile phones and computers. Is this really such a surprise?

Quite frankly I've had enough and am fighting back. I've gone grey but maintain a modern hairstyle (it's acceptable on men, and far better than an over-dyed Pauline Fowler/Dot Cotton helmet).

Nana Moon with Kat and Alfie
Beloved: EastEnders' Nana Moon
And the next time a shop assistant patronises me, I intend to say "That's right dear, you patronise me because you think I look old, and I'll patronise you because you work in a shop."

I am 59, I go to aerobics, I am computer literate, I can and do text (quickly, using my thumbs) and have done so for years. I'm a college lecturer, well-read, and I'm not deaf or daft. So are many others of my generation, and older.

So just remember that one day you will be in your 50s, 60s and beyond. You have to be dim not to realise that it's not in your own interest to create a society where all respect and affection for the preceding generations has been eroded.

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