Call us now on

0800 201 4811

Edwina Talks About Her Inner Age And The Big Society

Edwina Currie

Edwina Currie

Author

Lifestyle

Ignore us at your peril

Mae West had a robust attitude to ageing: ‘You only live once,’ she’d murmur while making movies in her 80’s patting her platinum wig and batting her lashes, ‘but if you do it right, once is enough’.

We can’t all be Mae West, but like her, most older people don’t accept the epithet ‘old’ with its numerous negative connotations. Every time I’m told, for example, that one-fifth of people over 80 are likely to suffer from memory loss, I retaliate with the four fifths who won’t. Half a million people are in residential care; that leaves more than 10 million of us who aren’t. Of course, in life’s lottery we will all need help eventually. But, for the time being, me and many like me are determined to make every day count.

I’ve always felt 36

 Recently, I joined McCarthy & Stone’s Greater Life Advisory Board; at 65 I’m one of the younger members. We were asked what age we felt inside. Seventeen and 20 were the commonest answers, though for me it was 36. I’ve always felt 36, even as a teenager; the serious profession of politics appealing to my youthful gravitas. But I bet our attitude is far more common than policy-makers and opinion-formers realise.

Let’s skate over John Betjeman’s remark that the only thing he regretted as he aged was that he hadn’t had more sex, or my personal resolve to embarrass my children and enjoy growing old disgracefully. The huge increase in the numbers of retired citizens is, for most of us, not a story of regret and decline but of a new agenda and a new lease of life.

"The huge increase in the numbers of retired citizens is, for most of us, not a story of regret and decline but of a new agenda and a new lease of life."

And here’s the rub. Governments may wrestle with the economics of the Health Service and the care system, but they pay too little attention to the great resource that lies hidden in older generations; even when it comes to elections, it’s as if that ‘grey vote’ is invisible. That makes me despair. Such a range of experience and good will is available – seniors who know you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Here is the ‘bank of grey cells’; here are the ‘silver servers’. Will no one acknowledge their value and help them realise their potential?

There isn’t a political party in the country that could perform without the twinset-and-pearls brigade stuffing envelopes, organising coffee mornings and committee rooms (indeed, filling the House of Lords – for the moment); not a parish or district council that could function without it’s long serving older members; not a charity shop, or Women’s Institute, or British Legion, or bowling club that would survive without pensioners determined to do their bit whilst enjoying themselves.

"The Big Society idea wasn’t new to us, but we watch with astonishment as spiky-haired youths on TV debate its plausibility. ‘Ask your granny,’ I hiss at the screen, except she’s probably too busy."

This attitude propelled me into unexpected waters last year. I was part of a delegation that went to harangue the new head of BBC1, 37-year-old Danny Cohen, on the unacceptable invisibility of millions of older citizens, despite being the bulk of the BBC’s viewers. He agreed; the average age of the channel’s audience was over 50, and they were complaining at the rush for youth that characterised such favourite programmes as Strictly Come Dancing.

A month later, the new series including four contestants aged 60 or over: Russell Grant, Anita Dobson, Lulu and me. I was hoist with my own petard, but there are better ways of proving our vigour! Read all about the our GLAB members in the blog article - Introducing the Greater Life Advisory Board.

Like this article? Subscribe to receive updates...
Subscribe to receive notifications when we post new articles to our online magazine.
Loading...
By subscribing to these updates you’re agreeing to receive email updates when new articles are published to the McCarthy & Stone online magazine.
We’ll never send you spam or sell your details. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Related Articles

Lifestyle

Blooming Marvellous: The Chelsea Flower Show

The world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It’s the most glamorous day out in the gardening calendar.

The grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea are once again blooming with flora as the Royal Horticultural Society prepares to welcome 157,000 spectators to their annual five-day flower festival in May. ...Read more

Lifestyle

Working After Retirement – Is It For You?

More and more people are choosing to put off their retirement and continue working. Plus, in many other cases, those who have already retired are looking to return to work. Here, we weigh up the pros and cons of each situation. ...Read more

Lifestyle

How To Manage Your Diet In Retirement

There are many extra demands placed on our bodies as we progress through life and because of this our nutritional needs also change as a result. It is never too late to revamp your nutrition and nurture your body with a healthier diet.   ...Read more

Lifestyle

Tackling loneliness among older people with Pen Pals

We understand the problem of loneliness amongst older people and we want to do something to combat it. That’s why we have created our latest Pen Pals programme, an outlet to connect older people with other older people in communities by the writing and exchanging of letters. Click to find out more. ...Read more

Lifestyle

How To Make New Friends In Retirement

Friendship is hugely important at every stage in life, and retirement is no exception. What’s more, in retirement you could make the most of the extra free time you have to discover different experiences and meet new people – leading to new friendships and relationships.  ...Read more

Lifestyle

Sheffield – The Steel Centre of the World

Famed for its industry and innovation, the green, modern cityscape now replaces the smoking chimneys from the industrial revolution. There’s a friendly, independent and alternative spirit that can be hard to find in other cities alongside a thriving cultural scene. ...Read more

Lifestyle

Wally & The Flying Scotsman

Popular North Gate Court customer Wally Blazey moved into their McCarthy & Stone apartment with his wife Gladys seven months ago, and the couple have just celebrated their 72nd anniversary. At 92, Wally is one of the two last surviving drivers of the Flying Scotsman, the most famous steam locomotive in the world. ...Read more

Lifestyle

The Top 11 British Hidden Gems

Where are the best locations in the UK to visit... that you've probably not heard of? We've ranked the best hidden gems around Britain, that are easy to access, and offer a great weekend away with the family. ...Read more

Lifestyle

Do Pets Make You Happier?

Whether you're a pet owner or have a pet free home, animals of all kinds have been proven to improve the happiness of their human counterparts. To find out more McCarthy & Stone conducted a survey to see how pets enrich their owners lives. Here are the results! ...Read more