A recent newspaper article reported that in Darebin, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, solar installations have spread rapidly through the area’s low-income households.
The catalyst for this is a council program that allows local pensioners to install solar at no upfront cost and immediately make significant savings. The council pays all initial costs and then recovers the full amount without interest over 10 years. The cost of repayment over the 10 years is easily covered by the significant cost-savings the pensioners achieve through their use of solar power.
The council thought that it would take quite a while to persuade low-income residents of the benefits of this program however the take-up of the program has been remarkably fast and widespread.
Asked for an explanation for the resounding success of the program, Trent McCarthy, a Greens Councillor in Darebin said “We call it the ‘nonna effect’…. “The nonna in the street has her solar on her roof. She’s very proud, she tells all of her friends. It’s social marketing 101.”
As I was reading this article I was struck by its significance. It is not about little old ladies in Darebin at all. It is a signal to all of us older women – particularly those of us who fit the ‘nonna’ descriptor (many of them short and round like me and easy to overlook in a crowd).
No longer young and pretty, many of us nonnas have become resigned to the veil of invisibility which seems to descend on us as we move into and through middle age. While older men with thinning hair and thickening waistlines are still in demand and influential, we are expected to move to the sidelines without fuss.
But not anymore. We have now been recognised as a social phenomenon with the hitherto unrecognised power to influence social change significantly. I’m ready!