Make age fashionable again

Make age fashionable again

A New Year can easily become an Old Year if we aren’t careful. The years take their toll, bones creak, memory hesitates, courage is discouraged. The fortunate preserve good health to the end; the less fortunate suffer. We all age. But age can be a beautiful time if you look at it from the point of view of the young. So much excitement, so many new things to learn. Unfathomable opportunities appearing hourly and the ability to review the good things of a long life if you want to. I have never felt that looking back is bad provided you spend twice as much time looking forward.

Watch Iris Apfel, at 99 continuing to make old age fashionable, to buzz through life –  positive every morning, anticipating an exciting day tomorrow every evening. She is a breath of fresh air for anyone, especially those who are getting on. People sometimes think old age requires conformity, behaving properly, complying with others in their group. Not Iris. She says “Style is not a uniform”. She bedecks herself like a Blue Riband Liner on her maiden voyage. Everything handmade, she insists, fearing that handmade skills are going down the drain.

Not all the old are rich; not all, comfortable. Those that are should celebrate, irritate, anticipate. No point in living a long life unless you can get a bit bossy towards the end. But is there a purpose behind all this positivity? Isn’t it just golden oldies trying to remain relevant, frightened of the hospice? Not at all. A life is for discovery, for finding out everything you can about the world, the people in it and how both work. If the answer is ‘not that well’ then you can do something about it. You have as much power as the Pope and a great deal more than Donald Trump.

For our power is not in the paths of glory or the salutations of greatness. It is in the small kindnesses, the gestures of care, the wonders of love, the ambitions of generosity. Rich and poor both respond to a smile. Young and old all enjoy engagement. Sick and healthy know who is concerned for them. Age tempers absolutes, modifies extremes, knows the beauty of a leaf, enjoys the nod of colleague. So what are the seven keys to a swinging old age?

[1] Help the doctors work for their money. They are there to keep you fit. Give them good information. Make it clear that just as you are their only patient when they are treating you, similarly they are your only doctor when you are giving them business.

[2] Run through the main headlines of each section of the news each morning. You don’t have to read all the articles. Just the subject and the main news will do. You must be able to trot out the news and your views of it at every opportunity.

[3] Keep your brush and dustpan handy. Brush up all the names you drop in one conversation ready to use them again in the next.

[4] Make sure half the people you deal with are under 40 and a quarter under 25. The young are better educated than their elders were; conversations with them will keep you on your toes.

[5] Get some distinguishing feature of clothing or hairdo – something that will make you stand out. That way you will be a good advertisement for age and an encouragement to others like you.

[6] Call at least two people a day who you know but who would not expect to hear from you. They will be delighted – and so will you.

[7] Read at least three hours of philosophy a week. Once you start to do so you will almost certainly read more. Old age is a time to find out what the hell it was all for.

I’m sure I don’t need to add the eighth. Give thanks every day.

‘It’s a wonderful time to be alive.’