Birthday Blues?!



It was my birthday this week. Oops. Now you know my star sign. Not that I believe in astrology. As a Scorpio I’m naturally sceptical. (Ha ha.) Anyway, my darling daughter woke me with a birthday kiss and a wry smile, “So how old aren’t you today Mum?”

Clearly, the most effective way to stay young is to lie about your age. Of course, the best way to tell a woman’s age is not to. Or to simply say, “I have no idea how old you are, but you certainly don’t look it.”

My 89-year-old mother on the other hand is immensely proud of her advancing years. Mum and her octogenarian pals have reverted to that childhood habit of bragging “I’m 89… and a half!” Or “I’m 90… and three quarters.” Facial furrows have become a badge of honour; a case of ‘read between my lines’. They’re proud of their history writ large in wrinkles – the love affairs, the laughs, the babies, the happiness, the heartbreaks, the fun, frivolity, all those travails prevailed.

As I blew out the candles on my cake – so many I was worried a Boeing 747 might mistake it for a runway and attempt a landing – I wondered what is the magic age when you stop wanting to be younger and rejoice at every numerical milestone? According to a survey by “Help the Aged”, one in five of us lie about our age. How many of you are approaching 50, 60 or 70… but not admitting from which direction?

A Norwegian professor recently created headlines by stating that people lose their oomph aged 54. His study found that “passion, grit and positive mind set” evaporates at this stage of life.

Well, he clearly hasn’t met me, Mum or any of our many friends. Google ‘over 50’s’ and you’re faced with the most demoralising photos of grey-haired, denture-wearing geriatrics in matching beige track suits advertising stairlifts or holding hands in His and Her incontinence pads, while sailing off into the sunset on Covid-riddled cruise ships.

Although feeling positively in our prime we over 50’s are constantly bombarded with phrases which imply that our lives must be grim. A recent survey found that “old fart”, “little old lady” ,“old hag”, “old bag”, “fossils,” “grumpy old man” or “grumpy old woman” are amongst the most prevalent ageist phrases on social media. More than half of the over 50’s surveyed believed that ageist language made them feel less valued (68%) unhappy (60%) and alienated (52%.) One in three commonly experience ageism at work, one in ten on public transport and one in seven while shopping.

Subtly undermining moments occur every day, from TV shows featuring doddery and forgetful pensioners to the aggressive promotion of anti-ageing face creams to ‘turn back time’. Not to forget the constant media reports about the “burden” of our ageing population. Everyday ageism is increasingly of concern to mental health experts who cite evidence that it can hasten the onset of dementia and even shorten life expectancy.

Clearly it’s time that ageism became as unacceptable as every other form of discrimination. We over 50’s now own about 80 percent of the nation’s wealth, so it seems commercially suicidal to aim such belittling and patronising advertising at us and to limit our representation in television dramas and sit coms to such pathetic and outdated stereotypes.

Ageing is the final taboo. And it needs to be smashed forthwith. Life after 50 is actually the best time of all. We boomers feel less stressed, less competitive, happier and freer than ever. And so much more adventurous. With time and money on our hands, my sixty year old pals are leaping out of aeroplanes, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, taking up taekwondo and tango dancing or joining Swingers clubs. And, sorry Prof, but we’re doing it all with passion, grit and a positive mind set.

Mourning the passing of youth and dreading the onset of old age distracts from what is really important – the here and now; whatever age you are.

I’ve just turned 62 by the way and still firing all sexy cylinders. Oh and girls, my top tip for keeping your youth? Lock him in the pool house.

For more adventure before dementia, please have a crack (and hopefully be cracked up by!) my latest novel, HRT – Husband Replacement Therapy.

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