Growing old ingloriously 209



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“Purple hair, tattoos and no slippers…”
Grandparents are more outgoing now. Being over 60 and embracing new technology, they are computer savvy, working or traveling, enjoying themselves, and although they love the grandchildren to bits, they also have a life. That is if they are lucky and are healthy.

I know that makes a big difference. Health is the thing we take for granted, until it lets us down. But if you are still fit, there are no limits. Nobody should be put in a pigeon hole and told they are old and finished. It’s for us to decide!

Some people are happy to be conventional. Yet I have taken the slightly unconventional path myself. I had a small tattoo on my back when I was 70.

I know it’s a little stupid, but it’s not bothering anyone where it is. Also it is probably too late for me to worry about getting a job, so it won’t spoil my employment chances. I will not be going for the record and having the full body covered in lurid dragons and hearts; I am mad but not totally insane. I love zany jewellery, floating scarves, bright lipstick, and like to look as if I am at least alive.

Some of my friends joined a motor cycle club, and went off on adventures. Another couple took off for Europe in a van. Most of my older friends travel as much as they can, or as much as their income allows.

But remember the way it was? Both my grandmothers wore aprons in the house. Big flowered ones and all enveloping. They kept their teeth in a glass by the bed, and had no interest in fashion or make up, that was way out of their sphere.

If you reached 50, you were old. They cooked and polished and sewed. They knitted themselves into oblivion, the clack of needles drowned everything. They didn’t drive, and they listened to the radio for entertainment, or went to the cinema.

Holidays were not to foreign ports, but mostly to a small seaside place. In our case not far from where we lived. One grandmother worked for a few years, but mostly they didn’t. Even my mother was ‘not allowed’ to work as it was a reflection of the husband’s earning capacity.

When I was in my 40s I made a pact with my best friend that we would ‘grow old disgracefully’.

I have tried to keep my side of the bargain and hope she is too. I even went to a Purple Hat dinner for ladies who like to have fun, I have been to rock concerts, I swap favourite pop music ‘likes’ with the grandchildren, read avidly everything I can. I do not wear slippers, have never owned any. I have no frilly apron (but I do have one with the ‘Two Fat Ladies’ on it)!

A few of my teeth might come out like the stars, but do not reside anywhere but in my mouth. Nothing is off limits – I am willing to try anything. I have had slightly purple hair, streaks, blonde bits, curls and now have hair that is nothing like the hair I was born with, and certainly not like it should be at this age.

I wear whatever I feel like and it is sometimes very incorrect for a lady of my advanced age. But I took a long road to get where I am, I think I have earned my right to dress without rules. As long as I don’t wear minis or expose my middle almost no rules apply.

Life is a challenge as we exist now on a vastly reduced income, we have known the high life, now it’s the exact reverse. Yet we still get the most out of life on a budget. I am happy to have friends from all walks of life, and all ages. Being able to communicate with different generations is a worthwhile skill. Keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

My husband’s mother was banned from wearing trousers, and only in the last few years of her life did she get to do that, when she became a widow. So sad she waited to do what she wanted.

You get one life, and there is no replay. So learn to paint, go to that concert, read that book, make friends with that person you sometimes see at the club. Have a new hairdo, or buy a purple scarf. Don’t’ close down your life, open it up, live every day and make it count!

Try to see the good in people. Don’t look for reasons to be arguing, instead find ways to agree. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s all we have, and is still a gift.


Are you growing old disgracefully? What are the things you wear now that your grandmother wouldn’t!

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. Right on the money Jacqui… “oldies” don’t fit in the box anymore and a good thing too. I too wear what I want, eat what I like, drink when I want to….am not over the top at all, just enjoying a simple life. And yes, I do wear aprons and so does my husband, after all who wants to wash food splattered clothes all the time…not me. And who cares if your apron is frilly or not, what matters is if you like it, then wear it. My grandmother wore corsets, petticoats and stockings all the time….I wear what I am comfortable in, pants and cotton tie dyed tops, maxi dresses and those fabulous TS tops that are so colourfull.

    We sold up, live in a caravan and travel the country…the feeling of freedom is awesome and we meet the most amazing people. It doesn’t matter if they are in a swag or a million dollar motorhome, they are all doing what they want and have stories to tell…..bring on happy hour!

    Our life style is not for everyone but for us…we decided wE don’t want to spend the last years of our life mowing lawns and dusting stuff that we have cluttered our lives with over the years or as we get older, not seeing the dust ….yes, you know what I mean. We have all seen that in older people’s homes.

    We want to experience life and share our experiences with others whilst our health permits and until we can no longer travel….yep, I have never been good at fitting in boxes, haha.

    1 REPLY
    • Wow….you are one incredible woman & what you have done with your life so far is wonderful.I love your positive attitude & with that you also have a very very long road to travel in life & enjoy it even more!!!

  2. Well done, well said. Go for it, live life to the fullest. There is no ‘Replay’
    Who cares what people Think!

  3. Good for you jacqui, great story & well said!! We are a totally different generation of women & it’s something to be celebrated! None of us know how long we have & we need to make the most of every day….. You go girl!!!!

  4. Each to their own. You can make anything happen if you want it badly enough. I have my Grandchildren everyday & wouldn’t want it any other way. Such a gift. Just love your life. We are lucky enough to all have choices. Enjoy.

  5. Go jacqui know how u feel told one of my sons a couple weeks ago when he questioned the pink foils in my hair I might be getting but never boring

  6. It all comes down to that phrase you used…we have earned our right to do what we can afford or managed – as long as no one else is impinged upon or troubled by our efforts. I am 70 and enjoying the life I live. Well done Jaqui, great article

    2 REPLY
  7. Yes Jacqui, I love and share your philosophy! And when I eventually shake off my mortal coil, I have my bright purple and pink kaftan all vacuum sealed, full of fun hippie memories,waiting to dance me into the next world!

    1 REPLY
    • I sooo love this story and will do my own shopping in preparation of the inevitable. I too will expect a lively farewell dance. Thank you !!

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