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Age saved the tribe; LETTERS.

SIR - I READ with interest Lord Heseltine's complaint that the old, once respected, are now despised or ignored.

Perhaps we should investigate how it came about that as a species we defy the rule that the larger the animal the longer the life span. We outlive elephants and whales as well as our fellow primates.

In the remote past a tribe's survival could depend on the memory of its oldest member.

"Don't eat those berries.

Many moons ago my brother ate ones like those and died."

"Let's stay out of that forest.

I remember the wolves there."

Only the alert, fit and careful could have reached old age, that is 40, and been able to give such advice.

One person reaching old age could have increased the life expectancy and size of the whole group.

Recent research suggests what gave us the advantage over the Neanderthals was our capacity to form large groups. Old people, therefore, were valuable. They enjoyed prestige. However, over millennia the transmission of information via the written word, radio, TV, computers and so on has removed one of their claims to regard.

Another, more recent, development has been the production of so many old people.

Rising living standards have cocooned into old age people who in any pre-1950s society would not have had the perception, drive and energy to make it to 40, never mind 60 or 80.

One wonders how the situation will resolve itself. MARGARET BROWN St Davids, Pembrokeshire
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 18, 2009
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