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A New Kind of Ban on Elders

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A new story, The question of elder sex has been posted at Blogher.]

category_bug_ageism.gif There appears to be no end to the variety of ways people can invent to discriminate against elders. A friend who lives in London sent along a story from thisislondon.co.uk titled BBC Station Bans Elderly Callers.

“Mia Costello, managing editor of regional station BBC Radio Solent, sparked outrage after telling presenters in an official e-mail that they should prevent any ‘elderly’ callers from being allowed on air.”

Good grief. What will they think of next to banish elders from the mainstream of life?

At least there is some "outrage". Ever since Britain’s new legislation banning age discrimination in the workplace went into effect on 1 October, employers have universally whined about how they’ll all go out of business now that they can’t list “young” and “recent graduate” in their job ads.

But back to the BBC story. Ms. Costello

“…told presenters,” reports thisislondon, “they should be broadcasting to ‘Dave and Sue - people in their 50s’ and added: ‘Only put on callers sounding in the 45-64 age range - I don't want to hear really elderly voices.’

“The controversial moves come as the station announced it was getting rid of some of its oldest and most well-known presenters…”

Ah, so according to Ms. Costello’s edict, elders like children of yore, may not be heard.

We all know “elderly voices” when we hear them. They are thin, less resonant than younger voices and sometimes jittery-sounding. It is caused by changes in the vocal folds, muscles and cartilage in the larynx as we age, and occurs to varying degrees among some elders, although not all. I have often been told by people who meet me after we have spoken on the telephone that I sound younger than I am. Give me a few years; that will probably change.

Forty years ago or so, I produced a zillion radio phone-in programs and the only callers we shut out were the cranks, zealots and potty-mouths – all of whom, I will admit, appear to have an affinity for talk-radio. But those folks come in all age groups.

There are already so many ways elders are discriminated against that we don’t need any new ones. Even though our vocal cords are located relatively near our brains, their decline doesn’t affect our cognitive functions.

The BBC could help improve its already damaged image by reversing Ms. Costello’s banishment of elders from the radio.


A stir in the techie world was recently raised about a BBC piece called "Designing a More Accessible Web," which one reviewer called spectacularly clueless. As an elder geek, I'd have to say that the BBC has two strikes against them now, and accessible web design affect everyone, not just elders.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Like any other business, the BBC will manipulate things to build their audience, their image and revenues.

How about banishing Ms. Costello?
I wonder if she treated her parents like this and what does she think of the Queen?

In her 70's, my dear Grandma developed a "thin, less resonant than younger voices and sometimes jittery-sounding" voice. No better wisdom, kindness, and wit came from her less resonant "elder" voice.

Ms. Costello should be shot.

This is the kind of crap that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. The casual acceptance of age discrimination in society today is mind boggling. I'm sure if you questioned Ms. Costello about her demand that no elderly voices be heard on her show she would say she has nothing against "old people"- she just doesn't want them on her program.

Why does the radio show only want to hear from like-minded demographics? Conversations are much more interesting when they are from a wide perspective. Ms. Costello also discriminates against anyone under 45. Geesh!

This makes me feel very sad. I teach at a community college with a richly multi-cultural population very aware of the nuances of ethnic and racial discrimination. So often my students say things that are blatantly disciminatory -- and are blythely unaware of it. I forgive them because they are so young. It is sad and frightening when a news professional of Ms. Costello's stature is blythely ignorant of her bias.

Oh my! What next? Are we elders too befuddled to shop wisely? Ms. Costello, get a grip!

Another example of ignorance and indifference! I wonder what would happen they were overwhelmed with a global write-in campaign. Let's not forget that we want to transform the culture of aging such that these sorts of discriminatory practices disappear. We don't just want to complain without action -- become spectators. When enough of us speak, the culture begins to listen. Margaret Meade once said, "Never underestimate the power of an individual or small group to change the world -- indeed that is the only way it ever happens."

As a Brit I have to say that the old BBC ain't what it used to be, and this is a prime example.

This saddens me greatly. Especially the comment 'I don't want to hear really elderly voices.' If she had said 'whiners, profanity, racial slurs', I could believe she was a decent human being..as it stands she is a blight on the human race and a serious flaw in the world of journalism. She's a hack with all the charm of a maggot. She should live to be as wise as the 'elderly voices' she so detests.

I don't know what else to add to this except that the same mentality is alive and well in the U.S. and it's just as deplorable and disgusting!

I'm sure this comes from the "fact" that older people sound annoying, have less to say that is within context, and tend to ramble on incessantly.

Let me guess: this is payback for our youthful folly of "Don't trust anyone over 30!"

Sadly, youth may win today, but Age will win in the end. You cannot escape it; I have finally earned my white hair. :)

The comment on the "thin, less resonant than younger voices and sometimes jittery-sounding" voice made me remember Katherine Hepburn in her later years... what a shame she isn't with us anymore! I would have loved to heard her reply!!

I have a little cousin (rather my cousin's granddaughter) named Mia Costello. How odd is that? Our Mia Costello isn't quite one yet and is as cute as a button. I'm sure that when OUR Mia Costello grows up, she won't be so stupid as to be create barriers for people with old sounding voices. Not if I have anything to do with it.

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