Deborah Ross: It’s good to know the young will get old too

The Ready for Ageing Alliance, a coalition of eight organisations, including Age UK, the Centre for Policy on Ageing and the International Longevity Centre, has produced an 11-point plan to help people prepare for getting older.


Never look downwards in a mirror. Skip the skin creams that promise to “reverse the signs of ageing” since you’ve more chance of reversing a tank up your own bottom. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead spend the money on good wine. Or even bad wine, but more of it.

Get a dog. Seriously, do. Dogs not only reduce stress, lower blood pressure, force you to exercise and promote sociability, but once you tip into old age your preoccupations will collide perfectly because you’ll both be thinking “Who is going to feed me?” and “Who is going to take me out?” and “Who is going to brush me?” and “Who is going to hose down my bum now I’ve got a bit of poo caught in it?” The prospect of having such a companion is just so very lovely and cheering somehow. (I’ll hose yours if you’ll hose mine.)

The disconnect between who holds the wealth in this country (87 per cent is held by the over-50s) and the fashion industry’s preoccupation with youth, skimpy vest tops and above-the-knee dresses can plunge you into quite the blackest hole of despair. But wait! Climb out of that hole! What’s this? Boden does excellent T-shirts with elbow-length sleeves (the lightweight boatneck, £22) that wash very well and come in 12 colours. You’re welcome.

You don’t have to keep up. Indeed, as Matthew Parris noted yesterday in his piece on age-proofing your life, if you want to have a nap, have a nap, and if you want to have a lie down, have a lie down, and if you want to go to bed, go to bed. It comes as a great relief, actually, to stop thinking of yourself as a tired young person and accept that you are tired because you are no longer young. However it is not necessary to say “It’s good to take the weight off my feet” every single time you sit down, tempting as it is. (It is always good to take the weight off your feet, after all.)

If you do look downwards in a mirror, by accident, hit the bad wine. This is exactly what it’s for.

I just can’t help but judge you
After a conversation the other evening, some friends and I started to compile a list of the things we can’t just help judging other people for, instantly and negatively. Live and let live, of course, but there are occasions when you find you can’t just let something go, your feelings change and the situation can never be satisfactorily redeemed.

Top of my list, I discovered, was anyone who says they have been, are going or wish to go on holiday to Dubai, closely followed by nothing. It was way, way at the top, miles clear of anything else. However, after a gap my list went on to include those who declare The Shawshank Redemptionthe greatest film ever made and those who say Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is “the best book I’ve ever read”. In my experience, I should add, when someone says the best book they’ve ever read is Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist, it does tend to be the only book they’ve ever read, plus they might never have read a book had it not been for Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist. (See also Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief.)

My list also included owning serious paintings of elephants or racing cars, recommending spiritual self-help (The Secret; Eat, Pray, Love, etc), retweeting praise about yourself on Twitter, having Botox — what puts me off having Botox, now I think about it, is being known as the sort of person who would have Botox — and those parents who have children at private school “even though we are not the sort of people who would send our children to private school”.

It all happens in a moment, with just the one remark or the one item glimpsed on a wall or a shelf, and that’s it. I wish there was a name for such moments. Off-puts? “I thought he was quite nice but then he dropped a major off-put and said The Alchemist is the best book he’d ever read.” But maybe you can think of better . . .