Emile Ratelband of the Netherlands made the news this week because he has asked a court to legally change his birth certificate to indicate that he is 49 rather than his biological age of 69. He said he sees the request as being no different than asking for a name or gender change.
A trainer and life coach, Ratelband told the Washington Post that potential clients often want him to “speak the language of young people” and doubt that he can do so given his age. He also believes that legally being younger would help him in other ways, according to The Guardian.
“When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car. I can take up more work,” he told the newspaper. “When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a luxurious position.”
Friends, according to the Post, have advised him simply to change the age he puts on dating apps. “But I don’t want to lie,” he said.
I hate to break it to Ratelband, but even if he is permitted to change the date on his birth certificate, he still will be lying — to himself. He still will have lived 69 years and will have the memories, health and other for-better-or-worse attributes of someone who has been on this planet for that many years.
Until we as individuals and as a society view age and aging more positively, however, one can’t blame him for choosing denial as a coping mechanism.
Thankfully, in the United States, it appears that some people are changing their attitudes about older adults for the better — out of necessity, if for no other reason.
Fast food restaurants, for instance, Bloomberg reports, are recruiting senior citizens to address a labor shortage and in the process are finding them to be a bargain. The employers benefit from older workers’ honed social skills and can pay them the same as a high school student even though they have many more years of experience. Also, most retirement-age adults who work are looking for money, not promotions, making them less of a flight risk, the publication notes.
Ratelband may need such a job if the court grants his request. He told the judges he was willing to give up his right to a pension to ensure that his age change did not have any unforeseen consequences.
Let’s hope that ageism recedes more firmly, both in the Netherlands and in the United States, in his lifetime.