’80 not out: Coming to grips with getting older’

Jul 17, 2021
Source: Getty Images

I joined Starts at 60, but a few years have slithered past, so what do I do now? I woke recently to find I was 80 years old! It was something of a surprise.

Surely it was just a few years ago that I was a spring chicken of 60. I had a few holidays, had a bit of part-time work, played in my garden, volunteered and ran an entertaining choir full of fellow retirees. I learned a new instrument — the ukulele — and a new sport — lawn bowls. I’ve written a few blogs and tried my hands at other styles, and blow me down, now I’m 80!

Back in the day, when I was really a spring chicken in my 20s, I took out an insurance policy to mature when I turned 30. I didn’t think there was a chance in hell I’d ever reach 30 (which I considered was ‘old age’), what with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Lo and behold, I turned 30 and $2,000 arrived. It was handy.

When I happened to mention to a friend that I’d retired from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll she was horrified. “What?! Rock ‘n’ roll? Never!”

Now, every morning when I wake up, I’m surprised I’m still here to annoy and/or amuse myself. I think the universe for another lovely day and I start thinking about what I can achieve with my time. Walking, swimming, gardening, sewing, listening to music, talking to friends … It’s a long list.

However, there are a few things that need changing. I hadn’t considered it all that much 20 years ago, but at 80 I have strong views.

We need the rest of the population to actually see that we’re still here on earth, though maybe not for long, but here we are waiting in shops to be served like everyone else. We need chairs with backs when we find a nice place to sit, be it at a café or hotel or anywhere really. We need hooks on the backs of toilet doors, which we can reach. We need tradesmen who do not rip us off. And why don’t fashion advertisements have sections for over-80s? Or even over-60s or -70s?

I wrote to one jazzy magazine when I was 50 wondering where fashion advice for people over 60 was, because all the advice said, “and for the over-50s” and we were all lumped together. Maybe it was those lumps that put them off!

There are a lot of us over 50 and it seems rude, not to mention cold, to go without clothes. I was very polite and asked for suggestions for the over-70s and -80s. Would you believe I didn’t get a reply at all? Not even an acknowledgement of my letter. What should we do?

I’ve decided not to get too fussed about clothes and wear whatever I enjoy. My advice though, put on a hat — they are always fun! But please can we have T-shirts and blouses with three-quarter sleeves.

There are so many other things to think about. I’ve discovered that Tai Chi is great for my balance and peace of mind. Walking is cheap and necessary. Swimming is on hold until summer returns, but just looking at water is always good for the soul. Going out at night is a bit tricky so matinees are the way to go.

My local library puts on interesting author talks, games and discussions and also helpful sessions with devices. There are also many free courses I can do to keep up with the world. University of the Third Age is great for learning about things you missed out on when you were younger. I found a series on early movies, which was good. I missed all those black and white gems from the 1930s and ’40s because we played tennis on Saturday afternoons when ‘the pictures’ was the place to go.

The most important thing to do if humanly possible is to stick your nose out the front door every day and say hello to the world.

I have one acquaintance who simply goes to bed every Thursday with a stack of chocolates and a good book. A weekly retreat she says is the only way to cope with getting older.

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