Greys of All Shades

 

The weekend of 12th April 2014 was a good one for the appearance of People of Age on UK TV.

 

The first incarnation of Silver Grey Sports Club was as an idea touted around to various TV Production companies in 2006/7 with a view to making a series of documentaries about inspiring older people, and expanding that into a magazine-style programme dealing with all the possibilities of being fit, athletic and sporty into age. Lots of excitement at the idea

 

The weekend of 12th April 2014 was a good one for the appearance of People of Age on UK TV.

 

The first incarnation of Silver Grey Sports Club was as an idea touted around to various TV Production companies in 2006/7 with a view to making a series of documentaries about inspiring older people, and expanding that into a magazine-style programme dealing with all the possibilities of being fit, athletic and sporty into age. Lots of excitement at the idea was followed by an equal amount of nervousness at the idea of programmes dealing with what we call Silver Greys outside the usual parameters in which they are portrayed.

 

Given this lack of interest, we came up with the idea of doing it ourselves on a website. We bought a camera, filmed the first lot of Silver Greys - mostly in Val d'Isère in early 2010, and which can be seen in the Snow section of the site - and www.silvergreysportsclub.com was born.

 

Now it seems that age isn't the deterrent to TV programming that it was then with the advent of Amazing Greys on ITV.

 

For those who don't know, Amazing Greys is a game-show that pits world-beating "Greys" against much younger contestants who are attempting to win £10,000 by beating individual Greys in two out of three "contests". The Greys have a range of abilities from strength and fitness through to skills and knowledge, which have either been developed over many years - as for instance tennis player Christine Truman or Mastermind champion Elizabeth Horrocks - or which have been achieved later in life. Examples of this second case are Pat Tombs and Derek Stewart, who despite being in their 60's and 70's respectively, have only taken up their sports within the past ten years or so. Pat Tombs is a record holding power lifter and Derek Stewart a title-winning road cyclist.

 

Despite the patronising references to "Britain's most talented pensioners" it is refreshing to see examples of people of age being represented on TV in different ways than usual.

 

However, it's not unadulterated praise for the show, as the contests between the Greys and the challengers are all set up in such a way that it's almost impossible for the young "patsies" to score a win. When you pit a man who has won multiple world darts titles against someone whose closest approach to a dart board is buying a drink in a pub, what is the likely result? Likewise, a personal fitness trainer against a Mastermind Champion in a general knowledge contest?

 

The only contests that have shown anything exciting in the way of an unpredictable outcome have been in the strength and fitness contests, where overall the Greys lead 2-1 against the challengers - and the one loss was as a result of the challenger using their "head start" in a cycling challenge. In these contests it is more illuminating to see that in your 60's and 70's, if you work at it, you can maintain your conditioning to a level where you can compete against a much younger opponent. Other than these, in the two episodes so far, all the contests have been between world champions and no-hopers. It's as if the idea of true competition, where the Grey might lose, invalidates the idea of people being able to stay in shape all their life. They should manage the contests so that the Greys compete against challengers who have relevant skills. Otherwise the programme makers are contending that there is no point in competing unless you win.

 

In a tennis tournament, there is only one winner. Is it not worth any of the others turning up? If you enter a 100m sprint against Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and don't win, is it a waste of effort? If so, why then do those who come second or later enter the race? Of course, they are professionals and that's how they earn their living, but they enter because they are competitors, and the competing, the striving to be the best they can be is the motivation.

 

The point of staying fit is to be part of the competition, to be able to take on life's challenges - and that is what the Silver Grey Sports Club is about, at its heart. We may concentrate on extreme and adventure sports, but the people who do these are our examples of people not giving up, of people making their own decisions about how to spend their lives in a productive and fulfilling way.

 

So, yes, we'd like to see the contests be less "biased", but isn't it refreshing to see a whole group of people of age presented as vibrant and dynamic human beings, people whom you can take as inspiration in your own endeavours.