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Carol E Wyer Headshot

Stay Young -- Act Your Shoe Size

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2014-08-04-Cathedralquads.jpg Carol (54) not acting her age.

Why is it, whenever a reporter interviews you, they ask how old you are? The last time this happened to me, I asked that very question. The reporter replied, "People want to know how old you are, so we have to put down your age."

Are we so obsessed with getting older that we need to know everyone's age? Maybe we want to study faces, draw comparisons with ourselves and exclaim, "They look young/old for their age!" It seems ridiculous to add an age to each subject especially when age bears little relevance to the actual article: "Mr Brown (39) and his wife Mrs Brown (38) were last night rescued from their house by fireman Sam (55) along with their two children (8) and (12) and their dog Fido (4) and fish Bertie (1).

Personally, I don't give a fig how old anyone is. Part of that comes from the fact that a lot of the time I genuinely can't remember how old I am. Two years ago, I told my doctor he'd got my age wrong. It was only when I got outside the surgery I realised he was right. I'd had a birthday the month before. Age is not that important to me, nor should it be to you. I am older today than I was yesterday and younger today than I'll be tomorrow. My mind is still youthful, some days it is ridiculously childish, so why should I worry about how old I am?

We should consider George Bernard Shaw's quote: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." In my opinion this is very much the case. I don't take it literally. I choose to interpret it that we should continue to enjoy life regardless of our age. We should laugh, love and appreciate what we have. We should also take up challenges and hobbies to keep us fulfilled.

Some people appear to hurl themselves into old age with relish. They seem to want to sit about in their nightclothes watching television all day and moaning about being older. That's up to them but it need not be the case. They could do something more productive.

I have heard older people complaining that they feel old and they are too tired to tackle any new challenges. Well, I had days in my twenties, thirties and forties when I felt about seventy years old thanks to various aches and pains and I have days now I am in my fifties, when I still feel in my twenties. Should our chronological age matter that greatly? You are as old as you feel and if you are willing to embrace life, continue to be active and take up challenges, then you need not fret about how old you are.

Of course, as with everything, this all takes effort. You need to keep physically and mentally fit. You need to watch how much you eat and certainly how much alcohol you consume. You need to shake yourself regularly from that lethargy and remind yourself that life is short and should be a joy. My father-in-law who was in good health until he died of old age at ninety-nine, played Scrabble, Cribbage and did mental arithmetic to keep his brain active. He walked every day, regardless of the weather and took an active interest in life, politics and what was going on in his neighbourhood.

In 1979, Professor Ellen Langer of Harvard University investigated the extent to which ageing is a product of our state of mind. To find out, she and her students devised a study they called the "counter-clockwise study" which involved taking a group of elderly men and putting them into the world of 1959. The question she wanted to answer was, if we took their minds back 20 years, would their bodies reflect this change?

In 2010, Michael Mosley tested out this theory further by conducting an experiment that had similar ambitions; to take a group of people and make them feel younger by recreating the world they had left behind 35 years ago. He wondered if elderly people dressed, lived and talked as they did in their heyday, it would help them feel younger and fitter. He recruited six celebrities aged between 76 and 88 to live in a science lab - a country house decked out like a 1970s time capsule. The experiment was broadcast on BBC television and the results were astonishing. It supported Ellen Langer's argument that opening our minds to what's possible can lead to better health, whatever our age.

So, what are you going to do? Are you going to mope about and worry about becoming older or are you going to enjoy your life? I know which option I prefer. In my case, I think I'd rather not act my age and act my shoe size instead.

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