Older people have had it hard over the past year, yet countless surveys have found they are the happiest generation. Here are their tips. Michael Segalov in the Guardian. January 2021.
Raise your heart rate
Irene Lewington, 92, London
When my husband died in 2001, it took time to find my feet again: years of caring for him had taken a toll. One day I woke up and thought, “Right, now it’s my time”: you’ve got to make the most of the time you have left. I did a computer course, tried skydiving, then gave drag racing a go. My sixtysomething son and I drive up to the courses together, then he jumps out and I take the wheel. I get such a buzz from it; I’m never happy if I cross the line at under 100mph. Nothing has gone wrong so far.
My children are pensioners themselves; they don’t need me the way they used to. I’ve no regrets about raising our family and working hard to support them – but that job is done now. If I dropped dead tomorrow, it wouldn’t change the world, so I may as well enjoy myself. While you’re still breathing, just get on with it and have some fun. I’ve still got swimming with sharks at the London Aquarium to arrange.
Do something that makes you feel sexy
Jeni Coombs, 73, Bognor Regis
I’ve been volunteering at the Age UK gym since I moved here a few years back, so didn’t think much of being asked to help oversee some new classes. When I was told they were pole fitness and burlesque lessons, I couldn’t wait. I’d never done anything like it, but I threw myself in at the deep end. I’ve been dressed as a nun, dancing on a pole on our Sister Act float at the Bognor carnival, and done a saucy festive chair dance to Santa Baby in cute velvet shorts.
For most of my life I would have been too embarrassed – worried what people might think of me. That, I’ve realised, doesn’t matter. If someone isn’t pleased you’re enjoying yourself, then that’s their problem, not yours. There’s nothing like feeling sexy to keep you young. My kids don’t say much about it, but honestly? It’s none of their business.
Kevan Gee, 75, Rugeley
The kids were worried about us at the start of lockdown, with all the talk of the over-70s being vulnerable. I sent them some videos, the first of me jumping on the sofa like a toddler; I was decorating the house one day, so I put on silly clothes and danced around with my paintbrush to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, as my wife jiggled around with a feather duster.
I worked as a supervisor at a power station for many years: humour kept the team happy on good days and stopped anyone getting dejected when critical incidents and mistakes occurred. A lighthearted approach instead of iron fist discipline keeps everyone smiling and on side. You’ve got to stay childish and silly; once you lose that, you settle into an austere and miserable old age. And it’s not only about keeping yourself happy, but the people around you, too.