Years ago, it was said that life began at 40. Through healthcare, diets, and the like, it now (apparently) begins later. I’m not sure what number has been picked, but a recent visit to my GP made me think.
My knees ache and I have arthritis in my left thumb. There’s no denying that I’ve lived (and continue to live) an active and busy life, but just lately my knees have been giving me real problems. I made an appointment and saw a new GP (I’ve no idea who mine is anymore anyway). He seemed a nice enough chap who tweaked and bent my legs, then asked me to sit down. “Not much we can do Mr Vardy”. He looked slightly disinterested and then remarked “You are over 50 you know”. One out of ten for stating the bloody obvious.
I felt as though society had decided the over 50s weren’t worth the time and effort. I hobbled from the surgery a tad unhappy and decided to take my own action. Within a few days I saw a private Musculo-skeletal Physio who informed me that there was a great deal which could be done. She gave me exercises and though I’m not bouncing around like the opening scene of Chariots of Fire, but I’m doing ok.
Looking back, society has drawn some very interesting lines in the sand.
I vividly remember my Dad being made redundant in his 40s. He’d worked in the steel industry since leaving school and suddenly found himself redundant. The company he worked at were suddenly taken over by receivers and closed down within a couple of weeks. He was lost. All his aspirations were dashed. The job centre told him that he was ‘too old to find work’. I can only imagine how he felt hearing that. I remember he looked tired and wondered how he could support his family on meagre dole payments. Thankfully friends rallied round and he built his own business, building dry stone walls and decorating, eventually retiring in his late 70s..! He did ache later on, and I’ll always remember him telling me ‘Getting old is a privilege lad, but it’s damn hard work’. I miss him…
I’m presently 54. When I reached by 50th birthday, I was barraged with ‘over 50s’ plans. One representative proudly told me that his company’s plan would cover funeral costs etc to the highest standard. I told him thank you, but I wasn’t interested. He seemed surprised and stated that if I died and there were any financial irregularities, I might be kept in ice for several weeks and that wouldn’t be very nice. My reply of “I’ll be dead” didn’t seem to impress him. Neither did my “I’ve been in colder and darker places than that lad..!” He left in a huff…
Recently, Helen and I went to Buxton Opera House to see the Pirates of Penzance. The stage company were called ‘Bus Pass Opera’ and these sprightly retirees bounced on stage with great vigour and energy. One or two decided not to kneel at times, but the chorus boomed, and they were given a rousing standing ovation after an excellent two-hour performance. The oldest on stage was over 80.
In 2014, Sir Chris Bonington climbed the Old Man of Hoy for his 80th Birthday. He was joined by Leo Houlding, and I have a delightful, signed photograph of them on the summit, celebrating their success. Sir Chris first climbed the sea stack in 1966 and was part of a three-night live BBC TV broadcast filmed in 1967 called “The Great Climb”. He did comment that he ‘wasn’t as flexible as the last time he did it’, but good for him.
I’m not a great watcher of TV, but recently I was made aware of ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’. Here, author Dan Buettner investigates five unique communities where people live long and vibrant lives. I highly recommend a watch as it’s really made me think about my lifestyle.
So, there you have it. Life doesn’t begin at 50. It begins when you choose, and it ends when our bodies give up. Regardless of the GP, I’m still going to keep mountaineering, walking, hobbling, and taking painkillers. My knees will need taping and I’ll have no hairs left on my legs, but they’re not that great anyway…