Age does make a difference

It's the new sex and politics, the new forbidden topic, but there's no stopping it. We all age, and we're all delusional.

Tom Cruise was as delusional as only an ageing man can be when he took as his third wife a woman 20 years younger than himself.

She was deluded, too, thinking age wouldn't make a difference.

Predictably, the marriage has just ended. Women's magazines knew it would: they'll have had their front covers prepared for years. For that matter, all women over 30 with marbles intact chorused at the time that a man that much older, a Scientologist to boot, would be no fun at all.

Let's be clear about this: the sacrifice was all Katie's. Her looks were bound to fade, what with time, having a baby, and being sad, and that - along with ageing itself - spells disaster for a female actor.

Cruise can go on beating his chest and firing guns on camera for another 20 years. Men can. But she has only a decade of being bankable left before they cast her in humiliating comedies - if she's lucky enough to get work - or offer her panty shield ads.

Just as well, then, that Katie gets a minimum of US$18 million (NZ$22m) compensation for the six years of putting up with him.

The only two ageing women I can think of who still cling to their perch on their own terms are Hillary Clinton and Anna Wintour, and both have the sense not to be taking up with toy boys - thus far.

I hope the ageing Anglican bishops aren't also being age- delusional in anointing the new 44-year-old Wellington bishop, an update on Nandor Tanczos to delight us on the capital's streets. Like Nandor he has long dreadlocks and, like James K Baxter in his later years, he prefers to go barefoot. Surely there should be a whip-round to buy him a skateboard on which to shepherd the flock.

It takes courage in Wellington streets, where the previous night's effluvia sticks like concrete to the footpaths, and where all over town, in a newly popular custom, people hoick and spit freely, to go barefoot. When a few dogs get off their leashes as well it can get truly medieval.

Practicalities and hygiene aside, I hope this appointment hasn't been made in an attempt to make the Anglicans suddenly hip, as if the youth of the city, invariably hung-over on a Sunday morning, will flock to church on the grounds of his 60s-style hip-ness, expecting a love-in.

But an odder age delusion currently has to be the political one: that the pension age must be raised progressively from 65 and onward, because the country can't afford it.

The cost aside, where are these progressively older people going to work?

Let's set aside the laughable idea that employers will be forced to hire them. The Employment Court may be amusing, but it can't prove obvious ageism when a qualified older person is turned down for a job, not unless an employer is dumb enough to put it in writing.

Nor can an employer be forced to retain an older person who can no longer perform because of frailty or illness associated with age.

Are we going to be a country of old people looking after trolleys in supermarket car parks, or guarding the nation's public dunnies? Even then there'd have to be five oldies per dunny, congestion OSH would not approve of.

Politicians and planners can do all the sums they like, but they can't make older people become fit as buck rats, or as crazily competitive as employees are now expected to be in the corporate world.

Old-age pensions worked until we began handing out benefits with the largesse we've become used to, back when being a solo mother was a social tragedy, and you had to be really sick to get the sickness benefit.

Rather than penalise old people who've paid taxes all their lives, why not take a look at how welfare has multiplied, and ask why we pay perfectly fit, young and healthy people to do nothing?

The Press