Grown up actors for grown up audiences

A host of Hollywood stars set a great example of what it looks like to be older today at the AARP The Magazine Movies for Grown-Ups Awards held recently at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles.

Veteran actors, male and female were out in force to show their support at the prize-giving ceremony, which honoured the best of Tinseltown’s older stars.

Pictures of stars such as Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep, Janet McTeer and Glenn Close underlined that in terms of both ability and elegance, older actors are still very much at the top of their game. Let’s hope writers and producers are smart enough to realise and address the still largely untapped potential for films for grown-ups, featuring grown-ups.

Read more:

What older women look like

Worth taking a look at Bel Mooney’s piece in today’s Daily Mail defending Carole Middleton’s (soon to be mother-in-law of future King) choice of clothes. Carole is 56 and apparently has been criticised for dressing “inappropriately” for her age.

How long will it take journalists to accept that today this is what women in their fifties, sixties and seventies look like? If you’ve always been interested in fashion and looking good, why would you stop and put yourself into purdah when you reach a certain age?

As the article quite rightly points out, the younger Middletons got their sense of style from their mother – and no doubt will continue to be guided (if only in their own minds) by that inherited sense of what looks appropriate and good – whatever their age.

Let’s hope that Carole, in her newly prominent position, turns out to be another much-needed standard bearer for older women.

My but you’re (not) looking good

One of the problems with ageing compared to say, gender or race, is that it’s not a key identifier. No one is either old or ageing or not, we are all ageing from the day we are born.

How old we look, particularly in later life, may actually reflect how old we actually are or may not. And that can be an individual or group thing anyway. After all, what consensus is there on what a 50, 60 or 70 year old is supposed to look like these days?

I was reminded of this recently when flicking through Saga magazine (nb if you’re over 50 and haven’t read it, try it – but ignore the walk-in bath ads).  They publish a monthly list of Decade Busters –the names of well-known people who are turning 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90.

I regularly glance at the names starting with the oldest and invariably think, “Really! Didn’t think they were that old”, or occasionally, “Oh, I thought they’d died years ago”.

In the middle are those who are often either younger or older than you thought they were.

The damning thing, I’ve realised, is that invariably amongst the youngest – those just turning 50 – are people who you think, “What, only 50? You’re not doing too well…”

No doubt this is all fuel for the fire that maintains that whatever we do to counter it, ageism is fundamentally and deeply entrenched in us all…

Auntie and the girls

The BBC is reported to be offering new contracts to women aged over 50 following suggestions that it discriminates against older females. Maxine Mawhinney is currently the only female BBC news presenter in her fifties although the organisation is now believed to be in talks with Julia Somerville, 62, Fiona Armstrong, 53, and Zeinab Badawi, 50.

It’s good to see the Beeb is finally doing something to address this indefensible state of affairs – although unfortunately positive discrimination is just another version of age discrimination.

 It would be satisfying if Julia, Fiona and Zeinab told them where to put their job offers and could sashay off to accept better offers elsewhere. That, of course, would depend on the commercial channels recognising a definite market opportunity…


And another voice of Much Older People

Age Concern England and Help the Aged (now a single charity to be known as Age UK from Spring 2010) has just announced a list of celebrities who will be contributing to their forthcoming Christmas fund-raising event at St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge. Amongst them are Sir Roger Moore, Lionel Blair, June Whitfield and Sylvia Syms.

Well that’s good then. There has been some confusion resulting from noises emanating from Age UK (to be) that as part of their remit “to support older people” the new organisation is intending to concern itself with everyone aged 50 and over. But from this line up of the great and the good (who genuinely are to be commended for their efforts) it is clear that they must still intend to align their brand with the elderly.

Confirmation, if any was needed, comes from Sir Roger, who said, commenting on the event: “Far too often older people are forgotten about in our society, especially over the festive season. It is vital that we remember those older people who are suffering from isolation and loneliness at this time of year.”

Far from being lonely, the majority of the young old are far more likely to be over-stressed and over socialised from the usual round of festive work and family commitments. Rather than feeling isolated we’re more likely to be wishing for half an hour’s peace and quiet (in amongst all the good bits, of course).

Click here for more details of the event.

What’s so special about 50+?

Oscar, the concessions site for the over 50s has launched a new award to coincide with UK Older Person’s Day and Grandparents’ Day which both take place this month. They’ve called them the Golden Owls and their purpose is to “find the cream of the over-50s”.  All well and good –  we strongly support the idea of promoting the position of older people and would always encourage the recognition of much needed role models for what being “over 50” is like these days.

But sadly, a closer look at the categories reveals that this is hardly likely to be the outcome. If you want to vote you can choose from:
•  THE EUREKA – most inspirational person of our time
•  THE ENDURANCE – longest-lasting celebrity
•  THE GIVER – Most worthy charity
•  THE INNOVATOR – Most recognised achievement in industry
•  THE OLYMPIAN – Outstanding contribution to sport
•  THE OWL – Lifetime Achievement Award

All of these are likely to produce the same old names representing the same old activities. What’s happened to the really meaningful stuff like:

The Feminist – the woman who has overcome ageist stereotypes

The Supporter – the individual from whatever sphere who has most helped the cause of older people

The Communicator – the writer, artist or commentator who has most clearly contributed to greater understanding about ageing in the twenty-first century

The Worker – the employee who sets the best example of what later life working can be

We’re sure there are plenty more categories that would be really worthwhile including those in areas such as caring, wisdom, and original thought. Why not let us know what you’d like to see?

In the meantime, as nominations close on October 15th, you ‘ll have to be quick with the Golden Owls if you want to cast your vote.

Click here  to see more

People don’t grow older like they used to

Well done to Standard Life for their current press campaign featuring – Hallelujah! – older people who don’t look truly elderly, simple or downtrodden. Badged with the slogan “people don’t grow older like they used to” the campaign uses black and white photos of both celebs (e.g. Mariella Frostrup, Marco Pierre White) and ordinary people (or perhaps I just don’t recognize them!) to reinforce what “older” looks like these days. And frankly, judging by these pictures, it ain’t bad.

Let’s have more of this positive approach from marketers – and soon.


Bring on Boomer Barbie

Shock, horror! Barbie, Mattel’s leading toy-girl is going to be 50 this year!

But, despite various role incarnations and subtle physical changes, there’s no doubt that the good ol’ gal is still being modelled on a teen-physique representing the ideal plasticised non-ageing female body. Isn’t it time she was given a break and allowed to slow down and soften a little?

Not quite robe and slippers Barbie but an elegant, softened, less brittle Barbie.

Okay, she might lose her pre-teen following but in light of the alleged spending power of the Boomer generation an older Barbie might be the brightest anti-recessional marketing ploy imaginable. Just think: “Does my bum look big in this Barbie”, “Hair dye Barbie”, “Flat shoes Barbie”… the possibilities are endless.

Now what about Ken…?

Celebrating wisdom

One of the most uplifting experiences of the week was revelling in the sensory feast of words and images melded in award-winning photographer and film maker Andrew Zuckerman’s book, Wisdom. A record of the thoughts and ideas of over 50 of the world’s most prominent and celebrated over 65 year olds, it is illustrated with superb, honest and revealing images of these familiar and well-loved icons as they are today.

Inspired by Desmond Tutu’s words: “One of the greatest gifts we can give to another generation is our experience, our wisdom” this is a book to dip in to, ponder on, be inspired by. Buy one as a Christmas gift, or better still treat yourself and leave it on the coffee table for family and friends of all generations to read (available on Amazon – I’ve checked).

Scant regard is given these days to the role of wisdom and its value to society. We all need reminding of what it means and certainly we could do with more of it – let this set the standard.

See more at,29307,1848104,00.html or

It’s never too late – to be a stripper

Following on from the stir caused by Dame Helen Mirren looking so stunning at the age of 63 in her red bikini we now have (totally unconnected) Queenie, the Senile Stripper, appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival just as she approaches her 75th birthday. Through most of August, Lynn Ruth Miller a writer, comedian and cabaret performer from San Francisco will be tastefully titillating her audience nightly as she removes her garments to music (not quite all her garments I might add). She describes her bra size as “32 long”.

Times are changing and you know what they say, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. We look forward to seeing many more examples of this new found confidence, as being in your prime constantly becomes redefined. Thankyou but not you, Mr Stringfellow – next!

You’re so vein

On July 26th Mick Jagger reached 65 years of age and truly became an Old Age Pensioner. Perhaps not typical of in my primers, nevertheless he ticks all the boxes as far as attitude, interests and long-term financial planning are concerned. He has also been, for all baby boomers, someone we have grown up with and someone who defines the whole approach of our generation.

On a personal level, I first saw The Rolling Stones in 1962, at the Marquee Club, Wardour Street, Soho, some time before the release of their first single “Come On”. Very quickly, certainly in my circle, you either became a Beatles fan or a Stones fan. I am now able to continue to listen to the Stones in almost any environment as I come to terms with my new iPod and its amazing technology. And the music itself sounds as vibrant as ever – certainly for me.

Hip replacements now prevent us from watching John Cleese and his “silly walks” but Mick Jagger still seems as lithe as ever. It will be a sad day when Mick sings “This could be the last time” and means it!

Madge the motivator

Like her or loathe her (or perhaps you’re completely indifferent) Madonna is an incredible phenomenon – someone who made herself a mega-star and has managed to stay at the top of an incredibly competitive game for over 30 years by constantly reinventing herself. Of course we all tend to think “well it’s easy if you have that much money, if I was in that position I could be fit and glamorous too”. However, as a recent feature in the Glasgow Herald reported, no matter how rich and famous you are, staying ahead of the game still comes down to one thing: sheer hard work.

Madonna, who turns 50 in August, is due to celebrate her birthday by embarking on an age-defying 50-date world tour, a pace that would terrify most of us. Asked about her regime of working out for at least three hours six days a week, practising yoga and following a macrobiotic diet, she commented: “There are no shortcuts to being Madonna, it’s all about hard work. If you want to know how I look like I do, it’s diet and exercise and constantly being careful.” The actress Michelle Pfeiffer also maintained that eating well and “going at it hardcore in my gym” was the way to stave off ageing.

So the message is, there are no excuses. Becoming overweight, unfit and underwhelming in appearance isn’t a natural and inevitable side effect of ageing. We can all look and feel better if we are prepared to put in the hard work and effort and the good news is that if we don’t need to be fit enough to undertake a world mega-tour in order to preserve our appearance and health. As we’ve suggested in the past, if you need to shape up, a good first step is to find a role model – either Madge or someone who you think looks really great for their age (and this applies to males too!) – stick a picture of them on your fridge and wardrobe doors as a reminder of what you’re aspiring to, then read our primers Health and Fitness and Here’s looking at you and take it from there.