“Should an Older Woman wear a Backpack? Yes!


This is the introduction to a recent piece in the Irish Examiner:

Most of us think that Helen Mirren can do no wrong. The 73-year-old Bafta-winning actress is a talented, self-assured, and beautiful celebrity icon for all of us in our later decades — as well as for lots of younger women — who find her inspiring.

So it’s no surprise that when she gets any hint of negative feedback, it goes viral — as was the case when she recently shared a picture on her Instagram account, donning — horror of horrors — a backpack!”

The author, feature writer Margaret Jennings, asked for my views.

“As a Physio did I think older women should wear backpacks?”

Yes! Of course a back pack. Helen Mirren is both right and wise. 

Backpacks and older people go together perfectly. 

What are we talking about? Fashion? Ageism? No.  Practicality, sense and attitude are the words for something as useful as a backpack.

Realise that I am not  sure when they became ‘backpacks’.  Anyone know?

70 years ago, that bag on your back with two loops for arms was a Satchel for school books, illicit chewing gum and picture of Kirk Douglas.   Except for the army with huge Knapsacks, bags on your back were for youth, not adults.  

But then in the 60s a new breed of young Scandinavians appeared.  They seem to have been born with a Rucksack attached, always very sporty. Never  taken off until the age of about 26 when they seemed to have them amputated.  Packs on your back clearly belonged to the Youth.

Grown ups had handbags, shoulder bags, shopping bags and brief cases.  How silly!  All producing lop sided middle aged people with back ache.

Sense says loads should be carried with weight travelling down the spine. 

Think Indian women, those elegant water carriers, swaying along, Nepalese Sherpas  with head straps and the baskets of traditional Billingsgate porters.

Even wiser, for older women, shoulder straps and the weight on the back are ideal. Why?  Dowagers Hump prevention!

Pulling shoulders back, head up, lifting your bust line….Perfect. HM is not stupid. She has great posture.

Look at these two ladies. Contrast their postures!


Well, maybe she could have a better fitted smaller one! Maybe a little more elegant too?  But I couldnt resist taking that picture. Perfect example of the effect.  Thank you ladies.

And it leaves your hands free.

Walk hand in hand together down the years, hold onto an errant grandchild or the dog and lick an ice cream. Quite helpful for stairs and rails too. Have you ever noticed that in whichever hand or shoulder you put your handbag, it is always the wrong side for the next set of steps? 

It is attitude too isnt it?

Pride in being old, upright and striding out.  Maybe now you can afford a designer backpack, or better, a quirky fun statement one, the confident you of later years.

Practicality has to come high doesnt it? 

Have one big enough to hold the daily shop, milk, gin and the dark chocolate. Who wants to carry bottles in a plastic bag, clunking around your knees?

Anyway, I always forget to bring one. 

My neighbour an older lady, a University Academic strides off everyday with a backpack of books and papers. (Never gave up the Satchel stage?) Though as she says, it makes catching a bus much easier. No putting down multiple bags whilst you rummage for cash or pass.

But where do you put your bus pass, credit cards and phone? 

Maybe better not in an thief inviting backpack zipped pocket? A tiny pretty purse on a string is fine. Rather sexy to keep it tucked into a deep plunge neck.line.

I will give some credit to shoulder bags. 

OK if they are worn slung  round diagonally so that the weight is on your back…then can easily swivel to front when that credit card is being tempted.  But do change sides regularly and check on security.

Rather looking forward to some entrepreneur waking up to the next back pack market.

 BackPacks For the Bolder and Older Generation!




  1. Maureen Helen
    December 4, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    Love wearing a backpack for all the reasons you cite, Joyce.

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