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A positive ‘spin’ on ageing

If I may generalise for a moment, people in their mid-70s tend to lose interest in accoutrements such as leather bum bags and turn to more practical products such as denture adhesive.

In their bathroom cabinet, you might note that they tend to have more ointments/unguents than beauty aids. Anyway, as someone famous said, age isn’t a number, it’s an attitude. Fortunately, there is research that might help here.

Researchers from Yale and Miami Universities have determined that people who see growing older as a positive thing live, on average, seven and a half years longer than those who don’t. That’s a very encouraging finding.

Do you need more? Rebecca Levy at the Yale School of Public Health found that putting a more positive spin on ageing can have a profound effect on the health of people over 65.

With this good news in mind I went searching for famous quotes which put a positive spin on the ageing process. Or at least make risible fun of it.

Somebody – possibly anonymous – once said, “Wrinkles are the road map of a life well-lived.” Yes, that’s a positive thought but, just as you begin savouring it, in creeps the nagging thought that you could easily become sponsored by a prune company.

Anonymous also said, ”I’m not getting older; I’m becoming a classic.” Just as you start seeing the positive in that, a question sneaks in and destroys it: a classic what?

On the brighter side, I guess I can say my computer skills have improved. I can now operate more than one tab at once and remember which password goes with which site. Sometimes. And when I say my skills have” improved”, I mean they have gone from “quite limited” to “a little less limited”.

I still have to call on the younger demographic [under 40] to help me with complex operations such as downloading material and putting it in organised folders. Even my 2-year-old granddaughter can show me stuff.

I’m not embarrassed at all by this; to balance it, I just think of the things that I’m good at but at the moment I can’t seem to remember what they are. Perhaps I’ll get back to you on this.

This raises the issue of memory on which it’s going to be hard to put a positive spin. Your seventies may be an age at which you can almost claim to know everything but remembering it is a trifle trickier.

This [probably apocryphal] story of an ageing couple illustrates the issue well.

They were dining with friends and, at the end of the meal, the women moved to the kitchen [they were far from New Age], leaving the men to chat and, I presume, drink port. One wanted to recommend a restaurant they had visited the week before and was trying to remember its name.

“What’s that flower called? You know, the red one you give on Valentine’s Day”

“A rose.”

“That’s it,” the man said, turning towards the kitchen. “Rose, what was the name of that restaurant we went to last week?”

Looking back, I can see that I’ve hardly focused on the positive. Everything good has been countered by something less good. This means that, if the afore-mentioned research findings are true, I’ve just knocked seven and a half years from my life expectancy.

I’ll give the closing words to Mark Twain but leave you to decide whether they are positive or negative. If they are negative my seven and a half years might become eight.

“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

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