On being 60…

Blog #1

Age has not in the past bothered me. Birthdays are good, and generally speaking so is getting older. Life has got better with age – particularly since passing 40 - and the last ten years arguably the best of all. So turning 60 held no fears for me. But as I rapidly approach the age of 61, tomorrow in fact, it hasn’t turned out like that.


Listening to the radio or reading the papers, you would get the impression that we are all going to live until we are 100, and the crisis of our old age will be that none of us are dying. Currently it certainly doesn’t feel like that. In the past two years I seem to have gone to so many funerals of people younger than me. I still find it difficult to understand how Hazel Beattie could have died when so young and, more to the point, full of life. Richard Walkerdine was a few years my senior, but only five years, and we spent so much of our past life together – and of course ran the Norwich Marathon together. His not being here makes no sense.


At work last week we heard that the husband of a colleague who I sit next to had died of cancer and the husband of another colleague has been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, both are younger than me. Every time I hear of someone dying on the news I listen to their age – 61, 62, 63.... All these people who are not going to last long enough for the new pension age.


And now, for the first time in my life I sense the onset of hypochondria. Should I be taking half an aspirin every day? Does a stiff arm mean an imminent heart attack? Is that chesty cough signs of something more serious?


This deeply personal interaction between factual statistics and real life is something many of us struggle with from time to time. Of course I know the figures are correct; our life expectancy is getting longer – particularly for men who can now expect to die less prematurely than women. We are healthier, fitter and there will indeed be a crisis of too many centenarians at some point in the not too distant future. But statistics are not me, figures are not my family and friends, data not the actual experiences of those around us. Now is not the time to give up on long held beliefs that life is for living, and better to go with a bang than a whimper. Hypochondria really is a waste of precious time.


But even so, since turning 60 I am aware that my confidence has diminished; I am not making plans like I always have, I don’t assume to be able to do whatever I set out to do. I am doubting my own abilities. Claire’s words to me, that she was so pleased Walkerdine retired at 60 so they had had that last five years together haunts me.


Perhaps this is what age really is, discovering a fear of mortality which cannot be rationally explained or wished away.


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Joe Finnegan

Beware the daily low dose aspirin – it gave me gout!


Pete Scales



I think the first thing to be said is that no-one gets out alive.  Everybody dies of something.  All one can hope for is that it won't be protracted unduly or unduly painful.  I never knew my paternal grandfather, he died of heart-related causes (or so I believe) when I was one.  My father died at age 59 of heart-related causes.  I celebrated my 58th birthday within the last week.  I have asked myself how much longer do I have?  The simple answer is that I don't know, and neither does anyone else.  I refuse to worry about it.  I am going to make each remaining day count, that's all.  My plans this year include getting an HGV Class 1 licence.  Last year, I got qualified on chainsaws.  I rather think I might like to have an affair....  I don't expect I shall, but I can dream! As for the aches and pains, they just go with the territory.  Is my sore left shoulder an incipient infarction?  I doubt it, I rather think it never really recovered from falling over in the snow and ice in a car park during the 2010 winter.   Maybe I should get some physiotherapy.  Maybe I should get a cortisone injection.  Maybe I should just do some damn exercise.  I do know that worrying about it is counter-productive and unnecessarily stressful. I have one plan, apart from a lettuce and lentil diet, to prolong my miserable and flatulent existence.  It involves losing some more weight.  I am not planning to take this too seriously, though, especially the lettuce.

Apart from the foregoing, all I can think of is to recommend to you the Baz Luhrmann lyrics:
"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '99 If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.... But trust me on the sunscreen."

Live long and prosper



Ken Bain


A thoughtful piece, Brian, echoing some feelings of my own of late. However, first I have to take issue with your final thought, that age is discovering a "fear of mortality". For my part, although I recognise that I am clearly nearer the end of my life than the beginning, I would echo Robbie Williams (of all people): "I'm not scared of dying, I just don't want to". The one certainty in life is that we will die. And I'm reminded of a discussion on the radio about the fate of mankind - "we ARE all doomed, the only real question is when". I think maybe my personal real "am I having a heart attack?" experience, with trips to a walk-in centre and A&E in a state of some anxiety, has brought me to this accommodation with inevitability. (I wasn't).


So I guess yes, we should all be seeking to bring forward the gratification that otherwise we might not get the opportunity to realise because time can run out at any time. But hasn't that always been the case? Many years ago I remember Gary Glitter (among others, but he's the one I remember most clearly for some reason) saying "Life's not a dress rehearsal" - but I didn't really take on the message. And is it different now? Well, maybe. It's not the fear of mortality, it's the realisation of mortality that might make a difference to how clearly we hear it.


But... Times have changed. When I started work, although it was not to the forefront of my concerns, I expected to work until I was 60, at which time my time would be my own. But my time is still not my own, and I will regard myself as fortunate if Jeanette and I can afford to live without employment income when I reach 65, when I at least (on current Government commitments) will get my state pension. Will my body be up to seeking the gratification I have deferred? I reckon I've taken more tablets and had more medical appointments in the last couple of years than the previous 40. But that's ageing for you, and if I really want to think about the Inca trail, I reckon it's going to have to be photos on the internet.


Which brings me on to my despair for the fate of young people today, with the prospect of having to work until they are 70. Cynically, I regard the inexorable rise in the state pension age as a way of addressing the conundrum of how to support an ever-increasing ageing population: make more people die at their workplace. But if it's successful (as I suspect, statistically, it should be), I suppose the retirement age come down again...


Bit like running a letter column again, eh? Hope you have a fab time in Sicily.



It is, isn’t it? Thanks again to everyone for their comments, here, on Facebook and personally.




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