As I was driving back from the butcher this morning, with the sun shining (albeit briefly between showers) with my totally gorgeous Jack Russell on my lap peering out at the road ahead (probably not legal, but great fun for him) and my lamb chops safely stashed in the boot, I got to thinking that being 60+ isn’t so shitty as I once feared. After all, I should know as it is my birthday today and I am 64 and still smiling!
In fact, like many other (slightly) older women, I am at a brilliant stage in my life. My 23 year old loves his job in London, hasn’t got anyone pregnant, still adores his mother (!) and doesn’t need looking after any more (in fact he often does things for me these days – bits of DIY, even washed my car the other Sunday without me asking!). I’ve been happily married for 25 years to a George Clooney lookalike (except with less hair, a slightly sticky out tummy and he’s not actually famous or fabulously wealthy) and we are still rubbing along very comfortably and securely as soul mates tend to do. We are in that golden period before our aged parents become an issue – so our resources aren’t (yet) being stretched to include nursing home fees, or me having to do their dusting, change their corn plasters etc. Our house is comfortable and needs nothing doing to it, bar the occasional coat of Dulux (or Farrow & Ball if we’re feeling flush). Am lucky enough not to have to work any more and so my days are my own – for leisurely dog walks, coffee with girlfriends, pilates, deadheading, shopping, cultural trips up to London. And a bit of ironing. Nothing has to be rushed. Yes, I have wrinkles but they are not desperately deep and I make sure I stay supple enough to get into advanced yoga positions (and out of them again).
When my 60th birthday dawned I thought that I would, as a new OAP, get an irresistible compulsion to start wearing Crocs, join the local bowls club and keep repeating “It wasn’t like that in the good old days”. I expected all kinds of paperwork from dull government departments to flood through my letterbox, saying things like: “now you are officially decrepit, you are entitled to X, Y and Z. Please fill in enclosed 43 page forms in triplicate and we’ll get back to you.” But it didn’t happen. Like most women of my era, my pension was delayed. But when the government started coughing up, it was quite a treat to be given a few hundred pounds every month. I fully appreciate that there are too many people having a tough time living on their pension. However I am still capable of working (and will be for the next 30 years if I still have the stamina of our amazingly energetic Queen or David Attenborough) so it seems like a very welcome bonus at this point in time. I’ve also had a free health check at my local surgery, been invited to take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme (wasn’t sure whether or not to display it with the other gilt edged invitations on our mantelpiece) and, of course, I get a free Senior Travel Card (Ticket to Victoria please. Flash card. Look at person serving hoping they will be amazed that someone who looks so youthful as me can possibly be an OAP. Never happens. Oh.)
Instead of thinking “everything’s downhill from here” I am being positive because, despite the unreliable English weather, my life is probably at its brightest now. Not sure how long it will be before my back or knees go, a parent is diagnosed with something ghastly (and, due to divorces, we have several sets of them so God help us) so I am determined to enjoy myself. I may not be as adventurous as BackPacking Granny – a trip to Waitrose does it for me – but I am having a whale of a time. Statistically 1 in 4 people aged 60 now will live to at least 100, so actually, with a fair wind and a bit of luck, I’m only two thirds through my life, hurrah! And, old age is rather in vogue nowadays – fabulous women like Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Lulu and Twiggy practically boast about how ancient they are because they know they still have bags of energy, ambition, chutzpah.
So, to all my friends in their late fifties – listen to your pioneering friend Grace – that yukkily big 60th birthday is nothing to worry about, it’s a breeze! But, if anyone we know asks, just tell them I’m fifty would you. Especially that man at the station ticket office.