“You have to think you are about 56”: Judi Dench on ageing

Dame Judi Dench, 88, spoke candidly of her age-related macular degeneration earlier this year. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dame Judi Dench has opened up about her healthy attitude to working in her late 80s, despite recent revelations about her deteriorating eyesight.

“We’ve got to keep going and not think of age too much,” said the beloved 88-year-old actress, sitting for an upcoming episode of Portrait Artist of the Year.

 “You have to think you are about 56.”

“Also, I don’t make a point of keeping fit. I am very bad at that.”

As reported by The Daily Express, Dame Judi sat for four hours on the Sky Arts TV show (in which ten artists compete to paint a portrait that wins her approval), during which she spoke candidly about her life and career.

“I am not frightfully good at sitting still,” she confessed to series presenter Dame Joan Bakewell. “I am very inclined to drop off. After lunch is a tricky time for me.”

Dame Judi’s “just keep going” attitude is all the more poignant in light of her age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which has made her ongoing acting duties considerably more difficult in recent years.

Appearing on The Graham Norton Show earlier this year, Dame Judi revealed that the disease — which blurs the eye’s sharp, straight-ahead vision — has now reached the point that she can no longer read scripts or see much on set.

“It has become impossible”, she told Norton, “and because I have a photographic memory, I need to find a machine that not only teaches me my lines but also tells me where they appear on the page.”

“I used to find it very easy to learn lines and remember them. I could do the whole of Twelfth Night right now.”

Dame Judi has been very open over the years on her condition, which she had previously discussed at a Vision Foundation event in 2021.

“You find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult,” she said.

The multi-award-winning star has had to find a new way of learning lines: asking her many thespian friends to “repeat them to me over and over and over again”

“So I have to learn through repetition, and I just hope that people won’t notice too much if all the lines are completely hopeless!”

While she described the condition as “intensely irritating”, Dame Judi still sees a funny side to working with limited eyesight: “you have to get very close to people before you can recognise who they are.”

“During lockdown I made a film and I was up close addressing people wearing masks during rehearsals, nothing to do with any scene I’m in.”

“It’s kind of exquisite if you can do that and that’s the good side of it, and you have to look at that side of it.”

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