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by Anne Mayer

I remember clearly the day my beautiful and youthful looking mother came home with a very ugly pair of horn-rimmed reading glasses. She had still perfect eyesight and when I queried her as to why she needed glasses, she replied: “Because I am 40 years old and everybody needs glasses when they are 40.”

I mentioned in my blog last week that I am 86. I am small (5’2” if I stand up straight) and weigh less than 7 stone. A frail old lady, nearer 90 than 80. None of it. I am physically very fit, take regular exercise, do all my own housework, am extremely independent, and since being widowed recently, I have also to do the heavy lifting jobs, like taking out the trash.

Most of my good friends are nowhere near my age. I still work part-time as an arts publicist including doing a good deal of mentoring and am on the boards of two theatre companies. I enjoy life and being alive, even having within the past three months lost both a beloved husband and equally loved son-in-law.

I am now imprisoned by the coronavirus pandemic. Its message seems to be that fragile old people like me are incredibly at risk, but, equally, if we do fall ill, we are unlikely to gain hospital admission or be anywhere near the front of any queue for treatment and advice. A nurse I know, no spring chicken herself, told me on the phone yesterday that she thoroughly agreed with that policy. “While young nurses and health workers are dying,” she said, “older people will need to be sacrificed.”

Luckily, my immune system has always been robust, so I must just hope it remains so for as many months as this horrible situation goes on. My newly widowed daughter wrote a book some years ago called AMORTALITY. In that book she says that although we cannot be immortal, we can be amortal, and she took me as an example of this. She said in the book that her mother, Anne Mayer, had always been Anne Mayer regardless of her age. She remained the same size, wore the same sort of clothing, worked in a largely youthful industry, had friends of all ages, and was never, ever defined by her chronological age.

It was fascinating reading about myself through the eyes of my youngest daughter. I had all my children in my early to mid 20’s and have always been on almost older sister terms with them, but was never aware of how they viewed this, or me.

Lest you think this is just a puff about me, it is a cry to women of all ages, but in particular at the older range of over 50’s, never to give up on life and what its has to offer. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE to apply for a new job, create a new business, acquire new skills, meet new people, experiment with the boundaries and foundations of your life. At 50, almost half your life still lies ahead but even at 70 or 80, there is still petrol in the tank.

Ageism is as ugly as any other “ism”, but we can only defeat it by not conforming to its basic claims, that people and especially women of a certain age are no longer useful and contributing members of the difficult, complicated and often cruel world in which we live.

Photo: by Carole Railton (copyright). Looking to the future. "At 50, almost half your life still lies ahead but even at 70 or 80, there is still petrol in the tank."

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