Age is more than skin deep

5 March 2017
If you think about all the negatives we hear about ageing, or even if you just watch modern life from the sidelines, you'll probably get the feeling that it's better to be young than old, that all the worthwhile things go to the young and ageing should be avoided at all costs, even if you're paying for that avoidance with surgery, drugs and denial.
Let me say first that ageing is much more difficult than I thought it would be.  I was sailing towards my 55th birthday when I suddenly lost all my ambition to succeed in business, at 60 I started slowing down and losing strength, at 65 I couldn't hear as well as I used to and now, close to 70, I don't sleep properly, some of the foods I used to like make me feel a bit sick, and sometimes I have problems concentrating.  It's nothing drastic and it's not really anything to complain about but as a self-reliant woman who is fairly healthy and takes no prescribed medication, I want to live as I do for as long as I can and I'm disappointed that the ideas I had about ageing when I was 20 years younger don't match the reality of today.
I still have a positive view about getting older and let's face it, it's much better than the alternative - an early death. I think the key to living well when you're older is to do as much as you can for yourself, embrace change, learn new things, be in control of your own life and home, think about the life you want to live, do what you need to do to live that life, make your own decisions, rely on yourself more than you reply on others and do things you enjoy so you live with the potential for happiness every day. 

There are a few opportunities in later life that you don't get earlier. Retirement, time and the choice of how you spend it are the most valuable of those. When I was younger, right up until the time I closed my business, I was flat out all day. I'd come home, piece a meal together, sleep, get up and do it all over again. My mind and my life were focused on earning money and it wasn't until I closed my business and came back home (in every sense) that I realised a lot of the money I earned was being wasted on things I really didn't care about. I'd been brainwashed into thinking that was normal. I was buying food and products I could make myself and I was feathering the nests of supermarkets, department stores and the manufacturers of clothing, shoes, cosmetics and all sorts of junk instead of feathering my own nest.  And while I was doing that, it made sense to me. It was only when I stepped away and calmed down and I could see it for what it was.
Now I live exactly how I want to live. I make the choice on when I get up, what I'll do every day, who I invite into my life and what I'll do with each precious hour. I've had a good life and when I look back, I see I had a lot of wonderful opportunities that I grabbed with both hands, but I can't remember thinking, that for any length of time, my life was happy and fulfilling.  It was exciting, interesting, challenging and wonderful but only ever in small portions. I never had the feeling or realisation when I was young, which I have every day now, that life is good and I'm lucky to live as I do. 
Making laundry liquid. 
So for all of you who are growing older and worrying about it, just let go of that feeling and embrace what happens as you age. Sure, there'll be liver spots, fails in hearing, eyesight and memory, your skin will wrinkle - surely the most obvious of badges, and you'll stop having anything like "normal" sleep. But along with that is the time factor and the absolute freedom to choose how you spend your hours. The way Hanno and I live gives us meaningful work to do each day, it makes us confident we can look after ourselves and it reduces the cost of living for us. It keeps us interested. And when we sit and drink our tea, and look around the haven we've created for ourselves, I can't help but think that choosing to slow down, become independent and self-reliant has been the making of us.

You won't hear too many people tell you that ageing isn't as bad as it's made out, but I'm doing that. Sure, it's not as great as I thought it would be but there is tenderness and contentment now that wasn't there beforehand. Age is more than skin deep, it is more profound than wrinkles, botox and looking younger than you are. It is the sum total of your time and experience and hopefully it is defined by kindness, generosity, acceptance, love and the strength of your character, so that the essence of all those qualities will be what you're remembered by.