TODAY is the International Day of Older Persons — "a day to celebrate older people".

Before the end of the year, I will be 70, so I guess I'm an older person, although I prefer the abbreviation "OP", which doesn't put quite so much emphasis on the word "old".

As an OP you find yourself going to funerals for your contemporaries. A couple of months ago I went to one for a friend who been a roadie for the band Hello Sailor on their Australian tour in the 1970s before going on to London and working as a journalist.

At the wake, Harry Lyon, the last surviving member of Hello Sailor, performed Gutter Black, the theme tune of the New Zealand TV series Outrageous Fortune.

My friend didn't make it much past 70, but he'd had an interesting life.


He'd been in Moscow when the Soviet Union was collapsing and Russian president Boris Yeltsin's tanks were firing on their parliament, and he'd managed to maintain some of his bad habits into older age, latterly by driving taxis in Auckland.

At the funeral, a gathering of survivors from the '70s did what OPs generally do when they get together — tell each other about their health issues, and discuss the ageing process.

"Growing old is like losing your virginity — you don't really know what it's going to be like until it happens," one opined.

"Yeah, except it isn't as much fun," someone added and we all laughed and went back to reminding each other what a reprobate our late friend had actually been.

"Why do so many people who get taken in by computer scammers come from Whanganui?" a woman in Wellington asked me recently.

She works for the banks, investigating computer fraud, and had noticed this geographic trend.

We concluded that it wasn't that Whanganui people were dim, but that our population is an older one and that older people are easier to trick than younger people, especially with computers.

We should remind ourselves that there have always been the unscrupulous exploiting the weak, and the slow, and the old — even before there were computers.


One thing you do have to learn to cope with, as an OP, is being treated like an idiot and, even though my hearing is excellent, I find myself sometimes being shouted at or becoming invisible and being written off as having nothing to contribute.

This year I am working with some other OPs, putting on a concert to raise money towards the renovation of the Whanganui Musicians' Club hall.

This heritage building is the second oldest community building in Whanganui, after the Repertory Theatre.

The architectural heritage of this utilitarian building is self-evident but it is not just a static object.

It is an example of "living heritage", staging musical events pretty much every month since becoming a music hall in the 1930s, when it became the Savage Club hall.

The theme of the concert is the music of the 1950s and 60s, performed largely by people who can remember when they first heard some of these songs.

Elvis Presley performing in Las Vegas in 1972, leaving Jailhouse Rock behind.
Elvis Presley performing in Las Vegas in 1972, leaving Jailhouse Rock behind.

I can remember when the movie Jailhouse Rock came out in 1957, I was nine.

The movie, starring a young Elvis Presley, had an R12 rating; the "jungle rhythms" of rock and roll being too wild for prepubescent school kids, it was assumed.

I was going to Parikino School at the time, and some of the other kids snuck in with their older cousins and reported back, but by then the music was all over the radio.

What was once considered wild, risky and dangerous becomes predictable and boring in the future.

If we all make it through to the end of November, a group of OPs will perform some of the songs of the 1950s and '60s at the Savage Club Hall on Sunday, November 25, from 2pm to 4pm.

We will be raising money towards making the building and the toilets accessible by wheelchair, which will be handy for some OPs — as well as younger wheelchair users.
Make a note on the calendar, the last Sunday in November, it should be a hoot, and it's for a good cause.

Fred Frederikse is a self-directed student of geography and traveller, and is the co-chairman of the Whanganui Musicians' Club.