Monday, April 02, 2012

The March of the Centenarians

Greetings from sunny Scotland, where it seems to have been decreed that our summer should be in March this year.  Edinburgh has been hotter than Athens, Barcelona, Rome, Cairo and Tel Aviv and we have been stumbling round in a sun-soaked daze with everyone muttering, as Scots are inclined to do, 'Aye, but we'll pay for it later!'  In fact, from the forecast for next week which mentions snow on the hills, that's probably right and by the time you read this we'll have dug out the woolly vests that must have been surprised to find themselves banished to the drawer this side of midsummer.

I'm writing this in advance because we're off at the weekend to celebrate my husband's uncle's 100th birthday.  He's in good health and spirits, still living in his lovely house in a green glen, surrounded by paintings done by famous Scottish artists when they were young and struggling and still affordable, still driving his lawnmower-tractor and reading the latest books and taking an interest in the younger generation.

I don't think I've actually met someone who is 100 before, but it seems this is something more and more of us will experience in the future.  In the 1960s there were around 600 centenarians in Britain treasuring a birthday card from the Queen; now she's out of pocket for 14,500 and a child born today has better than a one in three chance of getting one too - presumably not from Her present Majesty, though don't bet on it.

There are going to be an awful lot of people in this aging cohort and as modern medicine improves the prospect of reasonable health, many of them will, like my husband's uncle, still be readers with time on their hands.  Is this going to have an effect on the sort of books that are successful?  Indeed, is it already having an effect, with the popularity of romantic novels dropping and crime novels increasing?    Perhaps it's more difficult to be caught up in illusions of romantic love when the joints are creaking than to empathise with a serial killer as yet another young whippersnapper patronisingly calls you 'dear' and implies that your brain is as disabled as your ailing limbs.

Is it possible that, with chick-lit fading fast, zimmer-lit could be the New Big Thing?


hannah Dennison said...

Ha ha ha - LOVED this post. My mother told me the same thing (she lives in Devon). She's a very feisty 82 with a keen interest in life BUT when I asked if she ever considered a romantic tryst - she told me she couldn't be bothered. So I think you have a point .... crime fiction may well over take the romance genre in the not too distant future.

Charlotte Hinger said...

My biggest fear was that young people would no longer read books--and then along came Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I think the die-hard tougher content readers are still from an older generation.

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