Dame Mary Peters

Dame Mary Peters - photo by John Harrison

Olympic and Commonwealth Games star Mary Peters (born 1939) feels that ‘catching up’ with life in the 21st century can be problematic for older people trying to get to grips with computers, email and digital photography.

“There are classes out there which you can benefit from - I’ve been to them - but I think it is difficult because the younger generation just know how to do it because they learn from three years of age,” she said.

“We’re older and we’re not able to assimilate everything as quickly.”

Dame Mary also highlighted the issue of crime against the elderly as one which “must be very frightening, especially if you live in the country and feel very vulnerable.”

“There have been some horrendous stories in the papers about elderly people being beaten up and abused by people looking for money to buy drugs or whatever, and I think that must scare an awful lot of people, whom in days gone by, wouldn’t have even locked their front or back door,” she added.

Finally, the sporting legend said she felt a gradual disintegration of community relations had chipped away at any respect young people might once have had for their elders.

“I do a lot of walking with friends, and young people just don’t know that they should step aside for elderly or disabled people,” she revealed.

“I find it so annoying; my mother would have clipped my ear if I hadn’t shown respect for the older generation.”

However, Dame Mary said there were some advantages to being a pensioner in Northern Ireland - one being free travel!

“I went to Dublin at the weekend for a friend’s 65th birthday on the train - it was magic,” she smiled.

Article by Laura Murphy. Originally published as 'Pensioners facing perils and challenges in the 21st century', Belfast News Letter 04 May 2010.

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