Super sixties: Feeling young
all over again




Lesley Garner

Updated 1 minute ago



Mature, self-confident and often gr...
a bunch of people in their eighties and nineties. And if one of them
happens to be your mother you’ll have moments when yo...
the effects of skinny airbrushed models on teenage girls, but we need
realistic role models, too. Airbrushing has done awa...
embraced by others. Those of us — artists and writers, freelancers,
consultants, lawyers and academics — who can carry on,...
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Super sixties Feeling young all over again | The Times

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Super sixties Feeling young all over again | The Times

  1. 1. Super sixties: Feeling young all over again Lesley Garner Updated 1 minute ago Mature, self-confident and often grandchild- free, today’s sixtysomethings are ageing in a new way, says Lesley Garner (60) Last week I had my aunt and uncle over to lunch to celebrate my mother’s 88th birthday. “Good Lord,” said my uncle to me as he hobbled out of the lift, “You’re so young.” Well, thanks, but to a 91-year-old I imagine everyone in their sixties looks young. If you want to feel young there is nothing quite like hanging round with
  2. 2. a bunch of people in their eighties and nineties. And if one of them happens to be your mother you’ll have moments when you still feel all of six years old. I turned 60 a while back and I’m learning that being in your sixties is like a second adolescence. Your self-image is as volatile as a teenager’s. Some days you feel sassy and chic and up for anything. Some days — no, make that later on the same day — you feel weary and reclusive and more like withdrawing into your peaceful shell. You like the idea of a good night out, but your metabolism can’t deal with alcohol like it used to. You get a new haircut and then worry that you look like mutton dressed as lamb. You consider Botox and then find that you’ve bought sensible shoes. The difference between teenagers and sixtysomethings is that one is under pressure to grow up too fast, while the other group is under pressure to stay youthful at all costs. Both pressures should be resisted by the wise. I tell you what I thought being in my sixties would be like. When I was a little girl all four of my grandparents were in their sixties. They didn’t have a natural tooth between them. They had silver hair or none. They were firmly retired. This meant that the grandmothers put on hats to meet their friends for coffee and the grandfathers dug their cabbage patches. They were old, and nobody in their lives would ever have said, “Sixty- five! I don’t believe it.” You believed it all right. For years my vision of being in my sixties was a version of my Welsh grandmother, shelling peas in her pinny outside her kitchen door or, better still, some black- clad Greek granny watching the world go by from a wooden chair on a sunny, cobbled street. So now I’ve got to the pea-shelling stage and the world has changed for Greek grannies and the world has changed for us. Life expectancy is apparently increasing by five hours a day. I hope that’s the five hours spent catching up with friends and not the five hours spent hunting for glasses and lost keys. The economic pressure is on for everyone to keep working and the social pressure is on to look good and have hot sex with fellow pensioners you meet on the internet. No let-up in social anxiety, then. So it’s no silver hair and shapeless pinnies for us. We may worry about
  3. 3. the effects of skinny airbrushed models on teenage girls, but we need realistic role models, too. Airbrushing has done away with wrinkles, and older actresses succumb to Botox and facelifts. Heads don’t turn for you on the street any more, but that’s a relief, isn’t it? In our sixties we should radiate a mixture of style and authority, fed by the sheer life experience that we represent. Ageing isn’t what it used to be, but it is real and we have to learn to work with it. Like ivy on an old building, it will overwhelm you if you let it. Bravo to women who fly in the face of mortality, like the Gypsy granny I saw recently at the Appleby Horse Fair, toting her zimmer frame down the high street while wearing pink stilettos and a shocking- pink miniskirt. But, somehow, older feet gravitate into comfortable shoes. It becomes possible to spend a day walking through shops without finding a single thing you want to try on. Your hands look as if they belong to somebody else. You do that thing that so annoyed you when your old dad did it, of turning down the TV when the ads come on. When did all this happen? Flat shoes and sunspotted hands apart, there are advantages to cruising through your sixties: 60, after all, is the new 40. It is being mature, and self-confident and grown up without the unconscious drives. You aren’t driven to pursue boyfriends, the latest fashion, colourful, glittery things in shops, the next job, the coolest club or restaurant; though you can dip into these pleasures if you want. We are designed to be putting our energies into our grandchildren, but many of us, whose children have thrown everything into establishing themselves in a harsh economic world, are still waiting. All this postponement is using up good grandmothering time — and if the trend continues, we won’t even be around for our grandchildren’s weddings, should they have such things. So us sixtysomethings find ourselves in a territory without many of the traditional markers. We have our own teeth, and they are probably costing us a fortune. Our hair has grown gold with age. We are just as likely to be looking after parents in their eighties as babysitting infants. Even if we have been prudent and saved money, our children have a much harder time than we did economically, and we have become their safety net as well as our parents’ carers — for they, too, are living longer. Retirement is the R-word, something unthinkable for many of us,
  4. 4. embraced by others. Those of us — artists and writers, freelancers, consultants, lawyers and academics — who can carry on, do so. And it’s not only for the love of the work and the undeniable satisfaction of earning money, it’s because we are in denial about the next stage. When we do embrace retirement, even willingly, a period of confusion waits. Who are we? Do we really want to spend the next 30 years doing courses or running charity shops? In many cultures this stage of life is a time for contemplation, but our culture doesn’t support this. Nobody talks about all this. We should. And then there is the D-word, denial, which covers the real D-word, death. People we know start dying. Never mind policemen, it’s the inhabitants of the obituary columns who get younger. People we know get cancer or have heart attacks. It gives you uncomfortable moments and a resolve to walk more and eat better. So what is the answer? If there’s one thing we shouldn’t feel guilty about, it is concentrating on what gives us pleasure — and many pleasures, such as gardening or walking or having time to read, are largely free. We need to spend more time with the people we love. We need to cultivate younger friends and go to the places, learn the skills and read the books we have been saving up. Above all, we shouldn’t panic. We’ve only just begun the next phase. We could have another 40 years ahead of us. Three of us ran into the sea on my mother’s 88th birthday: my 32-year- old daughter, me and my mother. My mother realised that if a wave knocked her down she would have difficulty getting up again, so she retreated to a rock and sat there, looking fetching in a straw hat. In her sixties and seventies she ran language schools and wrote a book. In her eighties she drives, gardens, plays bridge, paints and does the crossword. My grandmother lived to 100. I may be in this for the long haul. Everything I’ve Ever Done that Worked by Lesley Garner is published by Hay House, £8.99 Contact us | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Site Map | FAQ | Syndication | Advertising © Times Newspapers Ltd 2010 Registered in England No. 894646 Registered office: 1 Virginia Street, London, E98 1XY

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