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_■ "A fierce indictment of
society's indifference and
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fl 11 cruelty toward old people."


•iiteauToir Acclaimed Author of

The Second Sex and
The Mandarins
complex caused him to fail. Out of dread of mak
ing mistakes old people grow set in a negative
attitude. They have a tendency to persevere in
their errors^ and the set notions that they have
already acquhed have a paralysing effect. Work
ers who have a knowledge of electiicity find it
harder than former miners to follow lectures on
electronics; they are worried by the comparison
of electric current with the flow of water. The
aged are also often wanting in interest and cutIt
osity. As we have seen, they find it hard to ac
quire new 'sets', new attitudes of mind. At the
beginning their decisions are slower than those
of the young and their reaction-time is therefore
longer. But they often overcome these difficulties.
Repetition is to their advantage: in a factory they
will go on performing the movements they have
leamt all day long and in the end they will do so
automatically. Here again we must not trust too
much to laboratory results: they are not always
applicable to everyday work.
Some of the failings of old age can easily be
mitigated: sometimes a worker can be readapted
to his task simply by being provided with spec
tacles or a seat that will allow him to work sitting
down rather than standing up. But there are very
few firms that will do this. A worker generally has
his job changed at the first sign of weakening. He
is appointed door-keeper, overseer, checker, book
keeper, storeman, or he issues the tools. He is in
fact reduced in rank. He earns less. It affects him
in his pay and in his mind What is more, mechani
zation has reduced the number of these jobs, and
the old worker is often condemned to unemploy
All these inquiries and the example of the Scan-