Let’s create an age-friendly world

Any regular readers of my blog will know that I am passionate about ageing positively. Key to this is to stop seeing older people as a “problem” and start making our towns and cities age-friendly places.

A key driver in creating an age-friendly society is overcoming the isolation and loneliness many older people feel.

In today’s transient society so many older people’s families have moved away.  Old people living alone often cite Sunday as their “loneliest” day because it is very much a day for family get togethers. For others the only person they have a conversation with in the entire week is the person delivering the post.

So-called “bed-blocking” has practically demonised old people blaming them for much of the problems of the National Health Service.   But if an old person lives alone there may not be the support mechanisms are in place to ensure continued recovery in their own home. Agencies such as the Red Cross and the Royal Voluntary Service do sterling work trying to help older people settle back in their homes. But more needs to be done and in an age-friendly community there would be even more support mechanisms in place.

Older drivers are much maligned and spending on bus passes for the over 60’s often begrudged in our ageist society. Make it harder for older people to drive and take away their bus passes and where does that leave them – totally isolated. Good transport links are another essential for an age-friendly community.

We all need to be much more aware of the needs of older people. What’s the good of falls prevention education if there are uneven paving slabs and potholes at a road crossing as there are in my local village? Even geriatric wards are not always age friendly. I recently heard a woman recount how her aunt had a very nasty fall after using the toilet on her geriatric ward because the cord to ring the bell for assistance was too high for her to reach.


The World Health Organisation has recognised the need to develop Age-Friendly Cities. It’s a subject I want to see high on the political agenda throughout the United Kingdom.  And it’s a subject I plan to return to as there are so many issues to cover

In the meantime here is a very good website.





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Longevity – Everything In Moderation

Many years ago when I worked on a local newspaper I used to interview people when they reached the age of 100. It struck me that most of the centenarian’s I met did not particularly follow any diet or do any formal exercise. The advice they always gave for their longevity was “everything in moderation.”

There is something about that wartime generation. They are rarely big drinkers of alcohol, eat sensibly without worrying about fat or carbs or their five a day and, while they may not do any formal exercise, if they are still mobile they are more likely to walk or catch a bus to their destination rather than get in the car to drive there.

My own dear mother

My own dear mother

My own dear mother lived to 92. She hated fruit but loved salad and vegetables – even so I don’t think it amounted to five portions a day. She never visited a gym in her entire life – but she used to walk everywhere. She rarely drank alcohol and never smoked. She did not play brain games or do a crossword but was an avid reader and, whenever her arthritis troubled her, she would go out of her way to increase rather than decrease her mobility.

I think we are all getting a bit paranoid about ageing these days. As soon as we hit our 60’s we are bombarded with leaflets telling us what we must eat and urging us to join a gym or exercise class. Brain games are best sellers in the tablet or iPad apps stores because we are told we must keep our minds active.

I am not advocating a couch potato lifestyle, daily fish and chips or binge drinking (something we are told is a problem in 60 to 70 year olds).

But I do think a little bit of what you fancy does you good. One 90 year old told me she enjoys a little bit of chocolate every day and it doesn’t seem to be doing her any harm. She still drives and is active in her local community. Although she did admit to me that she cuts down on her favourite sweet treat before her regular 6 monthly blood test because if there is any slight elevation in sugars she’ll get a lecture from the practise nurse.

So I plan everything in moderation. I might walk to my nearby shops and take my dog for longer walks instead of driving. I will still enjoy my glass of wine but abstain from alcohol 3 or 4 days a week, I might eat plenty of fruit and vegetables but I won’t be obsessive about counting them and I will allow myself an occasional naughty treat such a slice of home-baked cake or a packet of crisps.  In the words of the song “Enjoy Yourself . It’s Later Than You Think!”

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Grow old with style

I am as guilty as the next person for making terrible fashion faux pas but I’m getting better. My late mother-in-law was a smart, fashionable and elegant dresser until the last and I plan to emulate her and grow old with style.

Still looking smart in her late 80's

Still looking smart in her late 80’s

So why do so many people wave goodbye to fashion once they hit 55? Men see their hair thinning and try to disguise it with a “comb-over” while women either have their hair cut in an unflattering short style because it’s “easy to manage” or – worse still – get stuck in a time warp with the same style as they had in their 20’s.

If I had my way, shapeless anoraks, frumpy lace up loafers and oversized t-shirts would be totally banned for women. As for skirts or trousers with elasticated waistbands – unless you are infirm and have difficulty dressing – they are a real no-no.


I’ve struggled with my weight over the years but I would much rather get a larger size with a fixed waistband than wear an elasticated waist – they never seem to hang right. But I do add a small caveat here my mother-in-law had difficulty dressing in later years and had to succumb to elasticated waist trousers. However she always wore elegant top or jacket over them.

Should only  be worn in the house or at the gym

Should only be worn in the house or at the gym

I have nothing against dressing for comfort but even then it’s possible to have a bit of style. Leggings and boots look better than trackie bottoms and trainers (unless you are off to the gym) On the whole I would say it’s better for older women to go for classic clothes and a few investment buys. (I covet a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans for their flattering fit – expensive but can be worn dressed down with a shirty top or dressed up with a smart jacket) and I scour E-bay and the charity shops for good label classics. To my mind “style” is a big part of ageing positively and I don’t think it’s superficial. When you look good – you feel good. And it has nothing to do with trying to look younger or going under the surgeon’s knife. Some of the most stylish men and women I know celebrate their wrinkles and have grey hair or thinning hair. Another friend of mine is definitely plus size but always looks great.

When Sir Tom Jones decided to ditch the hair dye and steer clear of the plastic surgeon, he instantly became a lot more stylish. It’s a pity so many celebrities cannot do the same and age positively like him. Helen Mirren is a real style icon for the older woman. She always has a flattering but unfussy hairstyle and wears tailored clothes that flatter her slim but not stick thin figure. Twiggy, Joanna Lumley, Julie Walters and Honor Blackman also fly the flag for the stylish older woman.


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Irresponsible grandparents?

As someone who worked in the news industry I can only think that it must have been a very slow news day for BBC news earlier this week when, to coincide with half-term, great play was made about a survey from Mumsnet.

It said many parents were concerned about the care given to their children by grandparents. They were worried that their children were being given too many sweet treats and had too much screen time.

The programme then proceeded to interview some parents who thought grandparents did perhaps “spoil” their children more than they did. But only one person actually seemed really concerned about it.

And further analysis of this “news” story showed that one quarter of the parents questioned were worried. Which basically means that three quarters of parents surveyed were satisfied with the valuable role many grandparents play in providing FREE childcare, particularly during school holidays.

Jacob at Techniquest, Cardiff

Jacob at Techniquest, Cardiff

I am a little tired of the publicity given to some young people (thankfully in the minority) who seem to they have “invented” parenthood. From the mum-to-be who thought that there should be car-parking spaces allocated to pregnant women to the parents who sent an “invoice” to a five year old boy’s parents because he was unable to attend a classmate’s birthday party.

I remember when I was a young working mum, I definitely relied heavily on my parents (who moved house to be able to help with childcare) and my in-laws.


That bond between my children and their grandparents was so special. Even when they were adults they often turned to their grandparents if I was away.

I love having my grandchildren whether it’s for a few hours or overnight. I enjoy meeting them from school or nursery and hearing about their day. I love making things with them whether it’s some cupcakes or a toy made from old cereal packets and toilet roll tubes. I love playing with them in the park.

My middle grandson is fascinated with trains and when we can’t physically go to see them he loves watching YouTube videos of them with me on my I-pad. But oh dear – that’s “passive entertainment”,” irresponsible internet usage” and “too much screen time” to the holier-than-thou parenting brigade.

Looking after them is never a chore but a joy and I take my responsibility to them very seriously indeed and alright, I admit it, I do “spoil” them a bit.

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