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With the ageing societies this is an economic and social issue, not just a problem of irritating old relatives.

Can You Be Old and Still Embrace Change and Novelty?

I’ve embraced change all my life – get positively antsy if at least the possibility of it isn’t visible. (And yes that’s probably reflected by the fact that I’ve not lived in one house for three years in the 20 years since I left home – and rarely in the same city/country for longer than that – although I do think there’s enough in London to keep me interested.)

And I hope to stay this way. There’s a general truism that older people get “more set in their ways”, yet I suspect a lot of that is based on the generation that is old now or has been old in the recent past. They knew all of the turmoil and upheaval of the Second World War, and in general after that immediately sought stability and calm in their lives, which then, I’d suggest, became a habit.

And with the Baby Boomers now entering or approaching old age, we’re already seeing that they will be different. Just look at all the “silver surfers” (and “silver bloggers”), you see in the local library. And think of Germaine Greer’s “grow old disgracefully” – a lovely motto.

With the ageing societies in which we now live this is an economic and social issue, not just an issue of irritating, fussy old relatives.

The MIT’s Technology Review is asking the question what does it mean for science? Is it true that old scientists can’t have new ideas?

Broadly I’d agree with their conclusion, that the claim is nonsense. And it strikes me that our (and their) views over this are still much influenced by the Romantic idea of lone genius, of a man (and this vision usually is associated with a man) having a sudden “ah-ha” moment that comes from nowhere.

And of course ideas don’t just arrive in a vacuum and are then embraced as brilliance; they only arise, can only arise, in a social milieu ready to accept and embrace them, and that already has the framework of the ideas within it.

So, unlike buses, if one Einstein hadn’t come along, there’d have been another one shortly. And she or he might have been aged 25, or 65.

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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