Grey Power

Here in Ashburton the 20-29 year old is a rare breed, making up less than 10% of the total population. Many young people leave the Ashburton area after school to take up study opportunities or to travel, and fewer move in to fill the gaps. We’re hard to pin down – no longer requiring parents’ notes to participate in contact sports, but not yet old enough to have passed the halfway mark towards Greypower membership.

It’s been a new experience for me, having grown up in a city where over a quarter of central city residents are in their twenties. Auckland’s several universities and multitude of entry level positions for graduates from around the country attract youth, and it wasn’t until I moved South that I started to really think about the make up of New Zealand as a whole.

Perhaps the queues of mobility scooters lining the hall of the MSA should have been a clue that I was entering an area with a slightly different demographic, but it was a visit to the cinema that first got me thinking. I lined up, purchased my ticket and enjoyed the film. So far so good. It was only when I went to dispose of my ticket that I took notice of what was written on it – I had been sold a pensioner ticket.

Now I know that some of my friends are worried about the odd premature grey hair, but I have generally been the one to be mistaken for a student when giving talks in High Schools, singled out by bouncers for looking underage, and asked by sports coaches ‘do your parents know you’re here?’ Needless to say, discovering that I had been sold a pensioner ticket came a shock. My KiwiSaver account was nowhere near ready for this eventuality.

Following hot on the heels of a hip operation for a condition initially deemed to be ‘age-related degeneration’, I had to wonder: was everyone else seeing something I wasn’t? A trip to the supermarket later that week did nothing to put my mind at ease. In New Zealand it is common practice to ask for ID if a customer looks under 25, but as I approached the counter with my probiotic yoghurt, English Breakfast Tea and a bottle of Sav, it seemed that I didn’t. I sighed. I paid. I collected my bags.

It was only on the way out that I was stopped and belatedly asked, because, as the supervisor explained, I was ‘looking younger by the minute’. At last, a return to the age bracket I had, up until the movie ticket incident, most identified with! This was the sort of transformation featured in daytime infomercials, the sort of result promised by countless potions stocked by the very supermarket in question. Perhaps I should apply to be the new face of L’Oreal?

As it turned out, the pensioner movie ticket was actually just the discount price, as I found out the next time I went the cinema. I had not developed decades long amnesia, but rather experienced first hand the truth of the old adage ‘youth is wasted on the young’. I can now take my time to grow old gracefully, and I will never be offended to be asked for ID again!

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