“We oldies can manage metric OK”

This letter from an older correspondent speaks for itself:

“Saga magazine had a full page advert for a Steiff bear (‘Very rare black alpaca’) whose height was given as 8”.

I wrote to ask the advertiser what that was in proper measurements, and got this reply:

The bear is 8″ which is approx just over 20 centimetres sitting and approx 12″ standing

Carol Leveridge

Customer Service, Danbury Mint

Lovely mixture! On the Danbury website the measurements are all given in metric, but they think we Saga readers are all incapable of understanding metric, just because we’re older. This really does annoy me. Local radio is the same; lots of Fahrenheit used (BBC Radio Leeds). Their argument is that many of our listeners are older people – yet they have dumbed down much of their programming to try to attract younger people! We (older people) all manage very well when abroad and I feel insulted when it’s presumed I cannot manage metric.”

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2 Responses to “We oldies can manage metric OK”

  1. Martin Vlietstra says:

    My mother-in-law (aged 85) is currently moving into sheltered accomodation where she will be one of the youngest residents. In order to comply with fire regulations, all visitors have to sign in and out. I notice that all visitors use the 24 hour clock for this purpose. While this is not strictly part of the metrication argument, there is probably a very stong correlation between those who refuse to use the 24 hour clock and those who refuse to use metric units.

    Given that most visitors are probably the children of residents (typical age 60), the argument that people are "too old" to convert to metric is a very weak one.

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  2. Roddy Urquhart says:

    It is very patronising to say that older people cannot master metric units. After all they coped very well 36 years ago when we switched to decimal currency, so why would they not cope with decimal measurement! Also older people will have encountered metric when taught science in school many decades ago.

    I first learned about metric from my late grandmother - who would be 109 if she were still alive! - who had a great enthusiasm for maths and science. She was a primary school headmistress. I recall being about 10 years old when she explained to me the fundamentals of the metric system and remarked that 'this is a very sensible way to measure which they use in France, Netherlands and Belgium - but not here'.

    I have been left her Edwardian secondary school maths books. Half of the geometry examples are metric and half are imperial. Metric education has certainly been around in some shape or form for a century!

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