Last week I howled with laughter as I watched a documentary, ‘Secrets of Growing Old’, the title of which should definitely have been changed to ‘Secrets of Growing Old Disgracefully’. The participants in this documentary put the rest of us to shame. The majority were in their eighties and nineties but saw age as liberating, rather than an excuse to sit at home and watch TV. On the contrary, I think they embraced life more than the average 30-year-old.
82-year-old Dilys took up skydiving when she was a less-than-confident 54-year-old school teacher, egged on by students at her school who wanted her to join in to raise funds for a charity event. And after that first death-defying leap, she caught the bug and has since trained to skydive solo, much to the bemusement of the trainers at her local skydiving club at the time. ‘They weren’t at all sure it was safe for a fifty-something woman to be jumping. There was a bit of debate about it,’ she confessed.
They must surely now be aghast at the fact that she then went on to visit America, the ‘skydive Mecca’ and is now in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest female skydiver ever and has clocked up a whopping 1,132 jumps to date. Amazing! And, even though she has a few hairy stories to tell about tangled cords and the earth coming to meet her rather too quickly, she is adamant that if fate deems that she meets her Maker on a skydive in the near future, her attitude is: ’What a way to go!’
Charles is another example of someone who is definitely not taking the ageing process lying down. He is 96 years old and is as bright as a button…and wants to publish a book, titled: ’How to Get a Beach Body at 97’. Oh, don’t you just love him! This unbelievable man took up weight lifting at the age of 87! 87, be jabers!
‘The idea that you have to wither as soon as you turn 60 – nonsense!’ he says, defiantly.
And, I seriously want to just give him a great big hug as he announces: ‘You know what infuriates me? The idea that women can’t be sexy and desirable over a certain age.’ Look out ladies – he’s looking for a girlfriend in her 80s and thinks Joan Collins is a glorious example. What a guy! His advice for staying young, apart from the obvious benefits of body building is: ‘Never retire!’
He worked as a dentist well into his 70s, then ran a dental magazine, which he gave up when his second wife died, which he now regrets. However, at the age of 90 a German fitness company employed him as an ambassador, so he was back in the working game again, and couldn’t be happier.
He even admits that when he was younger he had a muffin top and was ‘a blobby,fat’ person, but, since employing the services of a former Mr Universe, he has honed his body so that it performs like someone 20 – 30 years younger. And you can tell, just by his attitude to life, that it is working, and some!
‘If I had my way, I’d set up a university, specifically for over-60s to retrain. I’d harness all that experience and energy,’ he says.
I think that says it all, really! You’re only as old as you think you are. Crikey!
And then we come to the last bastion of old age! Looks! When Frances Dunscombe’s husband, her teenage sweetheart, died when she was in her late 70s she felt ‘a little washed up and hopeless’ and thought life didn’t have much more to offer her.
However, life had other plans. When she accompanied her daughter to Grey Model Agency, where she worked as a mature model, they saw the beauty behind her dancing eyes and wonderful cheekbones…and signed her up. At 82, she is now the oldest model on their books and is positively thriving on this new career of hers.
‘It’s actually quite hard work, but it is magical, too. I don’t want it to stop,’ she says.
And isn’t that just the point? That, no matter what our age, we want to feel useful, valued, adored, proud and feel that our experience of life is to be treasured, not wasted. What awesome examples of this very fact these people are. I take my hat off to them and hope that when I’m in my 80s and 90s I still have the same enthusiasm for life that they do. Ooh, I can’t wait