By Bill Bytheway.
Open University Press
£37.50 (hardback) £13.99 (paperback)
ISBN 0 335 191762 (hardback)
0 335 19175 4 (paperback)
My first project as a social worker in the 1920s was to run
centres for unemployed wo men and girls. It met little response:
‘We’re not “unemployed”,’ I was told, ‘we just happen to be out of
To be categorised was a denial of their right to be ordinary
members of society. Our report to that effect earned me a mention
in a leader in theGuardian , but the lesson is one that has still
not been learned.
Now rising 90, my life is one long protest against the injustice
of being classified as not being ‘one of us’. I resent be ing
ostracised simply because I have lived a long time.
This book is one of a series designed by the Open Univ ersity to
promote fresh thinking about attitudes to ageing.
The first two parts provide the academic backdrop necessary for
the serious discussion of ageism. It is, however, for the bold
confrontation with the weary clichés about ageing in the third
part, that I particularly commend it.
Though not strictly comparable with racism and sexism, ageism
is, as Bytheway shrew d ly puts it, ‘a peculiar form of social
The message of this book is relevant to the entire range of the
welfare state. Certainly the orderly marshalling of ‘clients’ is
necessary for administrative purposes but bureaucratic convenience
must never be allowed to dictate social policy.
My one regret is that though the political activities of the
pensioners’ movement are discussed, little is said of the
obligations of those who service aged people to act as advocates on
I hope that when I need to look to a social worker for help I
will have the good fortune to fall into the hands of one who has
studied this valuable book.
Margaret Simey is honorary senior fellow, department of
continuing education, Liverpool University.