Generation Gap: Italy’s Ageing Population

One aspect of Milan I’m really tired of is that it seems so old. Europe’s population in general is ageing, but the average in Milan seems to be even older, though I don’t know why that should be. Surely they could find some cheaper and more congenial place to retire. New Yorkers retire to Florida to get away from cold winters, icy sidewalks, and a fast-paced life that has no time for people who move slowly. Why don’t the Milanese?

Whatever the reason, there are a lot of old people in Milan. Nothing inherently wrong with that; some of my favorite people are a lot older than I am, and I count them as friends. But life in Milan must be harsh for the old, because most of them seem to be in eternally bad moods, always looking for something to complain about. This is so widespread that we notice any old person who actually looks happy. A few days ago, in the subway, Rossella and I saw an old couple smiling and laughing together. It was so unusual that it made our day.

Milan’s oldies seem especially to seek occasions to complain about the younger generations. A friend witnessed this scene:

An old man got onto a crowded bus. He planted himself in front of a young man wearing a workman’s coverall, who sprawled, exhausted, in a seat. The old man glared at him for some minutes, until a young woman nearby nervously offered him her seat.

“No,” said the old man, “I’m waiting for this jerk to get up and do the right thing.”

The younger man raised his eyes and said, “I just finished working for fourteen hours. You’re retired and haven’t done a damn thing all day. I’m not moving.”

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