Part of “When I’m Sixty-Four” will be about people who have decided not to grow old gracefully. One of those I came across online is Virginia Ironside, agony aunt and columnist.

(On her blog she says that she’s also written quite a few books and that “in the later years of her life” it turns out that she’s “written enough books to merit the title of writer”.)

I know that she is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, which describes itself as “campaigning from a non-religious perspective for the separation of religion and state and promoting secularism as the best means to create a society in which people of all religions or none can live together fairly and cohesively.”

Ironside got a lot of complaints when she said a couple of years ago on a BBC1 religious discussion programme:  “If a baby’s going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother.” But I also know that she writes regularly for The Independent and The Oldie, so she gets my vote.

You can find out lots about her earlier life online; but what about now? She says that she is “Single, 67, with one son, who plays in the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain ( Not totally happy (but who is? Don’t let’s kid ourselves. Many more of us wake up in the morning dreading the day ahead than would like to admit) and very, very lucky, in that I have two wonderful grandchildren and I’m still working. Like most people of my age, I don’t fear death, but fear getting mad, incapable and gaga.”

Happiest years?

She adds: “The years after being 60 have, no question, been the happiest year(sic) of my life. That’s why I wrote No! I Don’t Want to Join a Bookclub, a fictional diary of being sixty and a grannie. In the summer of 2009 I put myself on stage at the Edinburgh Festival with a show based on my latest book, The Virginia Monologues, 20 Reasons Why Growing Old is Great. and I hope to do more stage appearances. I feel really grateful that, for me at least, it does seem there is gold at the end of the rainbow.  Well, don’t let’s go mad here. Not gold, perhaps, but certainly not a pile of old rubble. Isn’t that all one can ask?”

More strength to your elbow,Virginia!

How time accelerates

By the way, I thought that it must have been a typo when she wrote that “The years after being 60 have, no question, been the happiest year of my life.” So I was about to insert an “s” after “year”. But then I realised that – maybe unwittingly, maybe not – she had put her finger on one of the things we all notice most about getting older (and I’m a year older than her) – the fact that the years rush by so quickly. So maybe the 7 years sinceVirginia was 60 really did seem like one year. Read Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” for a suggestion about how to solve this conundrum.

On this subject of accelerating time, I love the story about the then 80-year old Tony Curtis being asked by an interviewer to describe his film career. He said: “Well, I arrived in Hollywood as a very young man, with very little money. So I checked into the cheapest hotel I could find; then I had a shower, put on a clean shirt, and came down here to meet you.”



For more about Virginia Ironside, click here.

For more about the National Secular Society, click here.

For more about Alvin Toffler, click here.