Next weekend, I reach one of my Big 0 birthdays – and it’s not one I really want to celebrate. It’s not particularly bothered me in the past when the first number of my age changed. I simply thought of it as entering a new decade of my life. But this one seems like a big jump. Surely I can’t be that old?
The only consolation seems to be that today’s generations are becoming younger. In the past, you were ‘old’ when you got to your late fifties/early sixties. I remember my great-aunt, who was in her sixties when I was a child. She wore black, and always had a shawl around her shoulders. She was very old to me. It seemed people in their sixties were expected to dress and act ‘old’ at that time.
Jump forward 20 or 30 years. My parents, in their sixties and seventies, appeared much older than I feel now. They didn’t wear jeans or tee-shirts – and, back in the 1980s, switching on the TV was probably the only technology they dealt with. They pottered around in the garden, did the crossword in the paper, had naps in the afternoon, and never went out anywhere in the evenings.
The modern world has changed. I know an eighty-plus year old who went on a trek and sail up the Amazon, I know a ninety-plus year old who is still as busy as she was in her forties, and I know a lady who will be 105 next month and who, despite increasing body frailty, still has a mind and memory as sharp as a knife.
At least the film industry, and TV too, are recognising that older women can play strong roles, and not just doddery old grandmothers. Think of the women in ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – did you get to see that in America? Judi Dench, nearly 80 now; Penelope Wilton and Celia Imrie in their sixties, and my favourite, Maggie Smith, also almost 80.
Yes, Maggie Smith did play a grandmother in Downton Abbey – but far from doddery! She stole every scene she was in. Forty-plus years ago, she won an Oscar in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ playing a woman who declared ‘I am truly in my prime’. She could still say that now, and I think I’m going to emulate her.
Every age we reach can be considered our ‘prime’ of life. In fact, just to prove it, this week I’ve accepted a new role – that of editor for the Publishing by Rebecca Vickery company. A new decade for me and a new challenge. Bring it on!