‘Sure I’m 80, but don’t bother telling me to act my age’

Sep 19, 2020
There's no rulebook when it comes to getting older. Source: Getty

I have just finished reading an article about being older and looking for a place to retire or be cared for but after the hell that nursing homes have evoked during this pandemic, don’t expect me to rush in and sign up for that.

I see so many advertisements about retirement villages on television too, but wonder, is that my future?

The ads always show nice grey-haired ladies with walkers playing bingo. They all look happy. But I have worked in aged care, dealing with dementia, and know it is no bed of roses. My beef with these ads is the way we, the older generation, are portrayed. The stereotype does not sit well with me. I’m not your regular sweet old lady.

Sure I have a knee replacement, part denture and Rheumatoid arthritis. I can’t open bottles, but once the bottle is open I can sure as hell drink the champagne. I suffer a little if I try to walk fast as I have a heart condition, but it doesn’t stop me gardening until I am ready to fall over, or dancing when the music rocks, or even walking round charity shops finding treasures.

I love clothes and make up and you will never see me without it; unless I am dead. I put make up on as soon as I wash each morning. I use a very cheap men’s cream and then apply the lot; eye liner, foundation, mascara and lipstick. I do it as much for me as for others.

Jacquie Lee
Jacquie doesn’t plan on pulling out the pearls anytime soon. Source: Jacquie Lee

So why am I not dozing in a chair all day like I apparently should be? Why am I not sitting and reading and looking at the TV? Well because that would only kill me faster. I love live music and if this darn virus ever leaves us I hope to get back to attending weekly gigs. I love everything from heavy rock to ballads. Most of all I love the friends I meet, the kindred souls, some as old as I am, who also enjoy music, and the younger ones who welcome me and don’t find it hard to be a part of the scene with fossils of my age.

I will never be the twin-set, pearls and perm kind of lady. I am hippie clothes and wild jewellery, big earrings and bright lipstick, flowing flares and skirts, glitter and see through. Why? Just because I can, there is no rule book for 80.

Jacquie Lee
Jacquie shows off a streak of pink in her hair. Source: Jacquie Lee

I have lived in three countries, survived tuberculosis, had three children in four years, and you think I am going to live by some else’s rules? My husband and I have lived through so many changes. We’ve experienced the usual ups and downs. We’ve been wealthy and poor, known great happiness and a year or two of hell – no washing machine and three babies is a sort of hell. Living where you know no one at all is hell. I have dealt with both.

When we came back to England, after being happy in New Zealand for five years, we came back to winter, which was horrible. I hated every single day. Kennedy was shot a day or two after we returned. I had my third child in a home for unmarried mothers as there were no beds available at any hospitals in Bristol. I had no idea we had to book a bed. Ross was born, but complications meant I had to be moved, in a snow storm no less, to a big maternity hospital to repair. I had teared during the birth as he was born fast and weighed 9.9 pounds.

The year got worse. My father went bankrupt, my husband’s father sadly died and we were in a horrible stark town in a very bleak suburb. But we pulled ourselves out of it and made a great life and started an amazing business in Bath. My husband is a graphic artist. We both worked at all sorts of jobs until in our 70s.

Fast forward 50 years and here we are, in a small town in Australia and very happy. I am 81 my husband is 85.

So if I want to wear something weird and whacky I will. If we decide to drink champagne on the veranda we will. So bring on the music again, as I think I want to try my wobbly legs out and shake my booty once more.

Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today.

Sue's sassy!

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