Prophet of Zoom: Less Peeling, More Stealing?

Recently, two intriguing items crossed my desk. The first was a complete printout of our inaugural Zoomer Census, which I first announced in this column in July/August 2016. It held all sorts of surprises but perhaps the most startling were the answers to question 12 (How often do you have sex?) and question 13 (When was the last time?). So far we’ve heard from approximately 725 respondents, aged 40 to 95. To question 12, eight people said they had sex daily, 141 said two times a week and 303 answered never. To question 13, 234 people said they still wanted to have sex, but 603 said they didn’t.

The other item was a story in the New York Daily News about an 86-year-old jewel thief named Doris Payne, who had been arrested for trying to steal a diamond necklace from a mall near Atlanta. Payne was a career criminal, but it turns out that a growing number of seniors worldwide have been adopting crime as a first-time vocation. In South Korea, criminal activity by the 65-plus has risen 12 per cent since 2011; in Japan, it’s doubled from the early 2000s to now, with pensioners suddenly shoplifting more than teenagers. “Grey” crime waves have also been reported in the Netherlands, England and Germany. A few years ago, three German men in their 60s and 70s, dubbed the Opa Bande (Grandpa Gang), stole more than a million Euros from 12 banks, apparently in order to pad their pension benefits. Their heists were models of efficiency but not the getaways because they had to keep stopping the car so 74-year-old Rudolph Richter “could pee.”

Is there a connection between less sex and more crime in later life? Is lust repressed turning into theft expressed? Is the allure of the forbidden just being repackaged, or is another characteristic of old age the flouting of convention? The last thing I expected our census to reveal about seniors and sex was that we aren’t having much at all or that we’d be so willing to admit it. And the last thing I expected from septuagenarians was for them to be robbing banks and, when caught, to be so unrepentant and matter of fact. Both groups, it seems, are engaged in unexpected lifestyles, with no apparent shame. They just don’t care about other people’s expectations! When a reporter asked Payne why she was still lifting jewels at 86, she said simply, “I’m a thief.” When we asked our respondents why they weren’t having sex anymore, they said simply, “We don’t want to.”

There’s sex, and there’s crime, and there’s freedom – or, as Rhet Butler said in Gone With the Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”