I’ve been on the radio recently(ooh, fame at last) to discuss the fact that Daniel Day Lewis has retired at 60, whilst Sandra Dickinson, at 68, is celebrating 14 years of happiness with her husband, who just happens to be 20 years younger than her!!! So the main question was: is age just a number or does it define us and the lives we choose to lead.
I’ve never been bothered about my age. Obviously I don’t like the signs of ageing much – the wrinkles around my eyes, the fact that my bum has gone south, etc., etc., but I seriously don’t feel any different than when I was in my twenties. In fact, sometimes I have to actually remind myself that I’m 57 and really should be much more ‘mature’ in my outlook than I am. Oh, sod that! I don’t actually want to be!
The great thing about actually being an adult is you don’t have to prove that you actually are an adult any more. Everyone knows that you’re ‘of a certain age’ just looking at you, so, in my book that gives you the where with all to act like a child if you want to. In fact, when I was travelling for six months at the age of 50 that is exactly how I felt – like a child playing in an adult world. How fantastic is that? Because I was surrounded by 18 – 25 year-olds most of the time, it gave me the perfect excuse to join them in lots of wild and whacky adventures, such as skydiving, white water rafting and jumping off waterfalls. Yay!
Janet Street Porter recently said she thought that getting old was nothing to do with age, it was to do with routine: as in, if you stick to the same old, same old, you become old by default. I heartily agree. I love to do things spontaneously. A few years ago, one of my friends was visiting her son in South Africa. She sent me a text saying what a fabulous time she was having and why didn’t I join her? Soooo, after quickly looking at flights, I asked myself a quick question. Where would you rather be on New Year’s Eve, here or in South Africa? No brainer, really! Five days later I was on a plane to Johannesburg.
You see, what I’ve realised is that as you get older material things are not as important. Yes, we all need enough to live, but what we really thrive on are experiences, which subsequently create memories. And I’m not just talking about travel. I’m talking about doing different jobs, meeting different people, having a purpose, giving back, volunteering or starting a new career. Terry, the other guest on BBC Radio Tees is a driving force in Chapter 3, an organisation that encourages people over 50 to get back into the workplace. And as she rightly said, people nowadays are living to be 90 – 100 years old, so if you retire at 50, what are you going to do for the next 40 odd years? She also pointed out that Daniel Day Lewis had retired from acting, not from life. Absolutely! He might have found another passion that he wanted to give his all to.
Recently the media have become obsessed with youth; as if you have to look like a Barbie doll with a perfect body in order to be a normal member of society, which is a bit cringe-making when you think about it. After all, do we really all want to look the same, with multi-arched eyebrows, Botoxed foreheads, trout-pout lips, lipo-suctioned waists and wrinkle-free knees? In other words, do we really want to look like freaks? Nooooo! We just want to look the best we can be for our age. For me, that means slapping on some make-up, trying not to go out looking like a tramp clothes-wise (but whenever I do I always bump into someone I know), eating healthily (but not too healthily) and indulging in a few bevvies as and when I want to without over-indulging, otherwise it takes me three days to recover.
Joan Collins, still looking fabulous in her eighties and married to a much younger husband, puts it perfectly. When anyone asks her if the age difference is a problem, she replies, ‘If he dies, he dies.’