The Cost of Living

A review of Holly Schofield’s “Generation Gap” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Increasingly age is being associated in our society with an economic threat. We are hearing more and more uses of terms like “the grey tide” to illustrate the perceived threat that an ageing population represents. Age is constructed in ideas of cost and ageing bodies are assumed to be unproductive bodies. The focus of a lot of the rhetoric of threat is the perceived cost of health care for ageing people, and the assumed impact this will have on the overall economy.

Holly Schofield’s “Generation Gap” begins with a character who is threatened by health care debt. We are told by Brendan’s medi-bot that “Personal health care debt exceeds five hundred thousand dollar maximum. Re Federal Act #AJ4448802-Mar 2060. Confirmation #28495488988. Euthenasia approved.” The medi-bot prepares to end Brendan’s life because he is now deemed to be too expensive to keep alive. Schofield explores the interaction between the perception of aged bodies as unproductive, the notion of health care for the elderly as expensive, and the danger of the right to die. In the world Schofield imagines, current issues around the construction of ageing as unproductive and economically threatening have exacerbated to the point where aged people are viewed as disposable. Schofield opens up a dark window into our future if we continue to construct ageing as an economic waste.

Schofield challenges other features that popular culture tends to associate with ageing, like the assumption that aged people have issues with memory and Brendan is able to save himself from involuntary euthenasia by giving him a job providing information about the past to a young person named Jonno, who is trying to recover his family’s past. Schofield challenges the stereotype of aged people not wanting to participate in society by illustrating Brendan’s joy at having a job and feeling like he can contribute to the next generation. He is ecstatic about having a job that he is capable of doing well and that caters to his abilities.

But in addition to the questions and cautions that Schofield raises about the social construction of ageing, she also creates a story about family divisions and intergenerational differences, pointing out the complexities of different relationships to identity and the body between generations.
To discover more about Holly Schofield’s work, visit https://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/
To find out more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran’s site at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen