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.


When I started planning my own retirement (though that’s a word I try to avoid; I’ll say more about that in another post) I started reading books on the subject of retirement planning. That made sense, I thought. Then I started to realise how many aspects there were to the subject.

One book that caught my eye was called “The Beginner’s Guide to Retirement” and subtitled “Taking Control of Your Future”; I thought that would do very nicely to start with. It’s by Michael Longhurst, an Australian psychologist who was responsible for designing and delivering a research project called “Retirement 200”; so-called because they interviewed 200 retirees at length; 100 men and 100 women.

Glancing inside the book, I saw this quote on the frontispiece:

“You are beginning a glorious opportunity to learn, to give new things a go, be prepared to use your talents, use all of your abilities to widen your lifestyle, try everything until you are satisfied”.

Yes, I thought, I want some of that.

Retirement Success Factors: a definitive list?

As a result of all those conversations with the 200 retirees, Longhurst came up with a list of factors that he calls “Retirement Success Factors”. As a way of starting this project that I’ve called “When I’m Sixty-four”, I want to flag up the Retirement 200 list, in order to get some feedback. In due course I’ll expand on what the book says about the significance of these items; and I’ll report on where I agree (and in some cases disagree) with this list.

For now, here is the list of “Retirement Success Factors”:

  • the ability to choose the point of departure
  • being 55 or younger at the point of retirement
  • having meaningful activities
  • being financially independent
  • being in good health: physically, mentally, psychologically
  • having planned one’s retirement
  • having emotional support
  • having access to education or coaching

What do you think? Whether you are planning your retirement (doesn’t matter if you are 40 or 64), or you’ve already retired and are happy and fulfilled, or already retired and bored, your comments would be welcomed!



This might sound like a strange title for a post by a guy (namely yours truly) who has already passed the age mark immortalised by Messrs Lennon and McCartney. I’m using it for more than one reason. Firstly, it’s a great title for a great record; one of those Beatles songs with which people all over the world join in.

Secondly, the song is about ageing and its positive aspects. Although I am a couple of years past 65, i.e. the so-called default retirement age, at least here in the UK, I still do not consider myself retired. Many people of my age, if they are in good health, feel the same way.

I’m always trying to find an alternative to the word “retirement”. The ones I have seen have both been suggested by friends and family: “renaissance” and “transition”. And there’s a US-published book about retirement planning whose title I like very much: “My Next Phase”. That sums up how I feel about this stage of life.


Now (finally) to the point. Because I have been planning this “next phase” for several years, I have been intending to write a book about the process. However, even if one omits the financial planning aspects (because there is lots of advice available on that) there are so many other aspects that it’s difficult to know where to focus the book: income-generating activities; voluntary activities; health; effect on relationships; etc, etc. I haven’t yet decided which of these to go for so, for now, I’ve decided to set up a discussion forum.

So … if you come into any of these categories:

  • thinking idly about what your life will be like when you reach 64 (or 65)
  • actively planning for it
  • already retired (excuse my use of the R-word) and enjoying an active life
  • already retired but  bored some or all the time
  • finding retirement a struggle financially
  • or would like to talk about any other aspect of retirement

… then please post a comment here, so that you can exchange thoughts and experiences with other retirees / retirement planners / renaissance people/ transitioners.

I look forward to hearing from you!



About the song “When I’m Sixty-Four”:

The song is sung by a young man to his lover, and is about his plans of growing old together with her. Although the theme is ageing, it was one of the first songs McCartney wrote, when he was sixteen.[1] The Beatles used it in the early days as a song they could play when the amplifiers broke down or the electricity went off.[3][4] Both George Martin and Mark Lewisohn speculated that McCartney may have thought of the song when recording began for Sgt. Pepper in December 1966 because his father turned 64 earlier that year.[3][4]

Lennon said of the song, “Paul wrote it in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’ … this was just one that was quite a hit with us.”[5] In his 1980 interview for Playboy he said, “I would never even dream of writing a song like that.”[2]

Source: Wikipedia


“Broadcasting House” is one of my favourite radio programmes and I always make time for it. (0900 every Sunday on BBC Radio 4, if you haven’t got into it yet)

Time was a central theme in one of the first items last Sunday, 13 Feb. A character’s obsession with “the quickening pace of time”, as he grows older, is the central theme of a stop-motion film “The Eagleman Stag”, a 9-minute short nominated for a BAFTA in the “short animation” category. The film’s director Mikey Please was interviewed; the BBC website tells me that he is a freelance animator who graduated from the Royal College of Art last year [only last year and winning a BAFTA? Impressive!]. He has directed several music videos and title sequences as well as making his own short films.

By the way, through watching the award ceremony later that day I now know that Mikey’s film won the BAFTA. Do the people at the BBC know something that we don’t know? Was his selection as an interviewee a lucky or a smart choice? Or did the editors at “Broadcasting House” have a time machine?

Alvin Toffler

The quickening pace of time as one gets older is, of course, not a new theme. I remember reading Future Shock and The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler’s remarkable books of 1973 and1981 respectively. Toffler was very interesting on this phenomenon. He suggested that one solution was for retirees to live in enclaves where clocks ran slower. He was totally serious, of course. Although I haven’t retired, I qualify, age-wise; I want to move there now.

An anecdotal, non-scientific illustration of the time-speeding-up phenomenon came from the late Tony Curtis, when interviewed in his 80s.

Interviewer: “Could you give us a thumb-nail sketch of your movie career?”

Curtis: “Well, I arrived in Hollywood as a very young man with very little money. So I checked in to the cheapest motel I could find. I had a shower and put on a clean shirt; then I came down here to meet you.”

Which proves the point rather neatly.

Stop-motion and “The Wind in the Willows”

Back to that interview about animated film “The Eagleman Stag”. Paddy O’Connell, the host of Broadcasting House, said: “from Wallis and Gromit onwards, the UK has a hold on stop-motion”.

I love Wallis and Gromit to bits (and I live in Bristol, where Aardman Animations is based), but I really must dispute the idea that the UK’s hold on stop-motion started with them. Paddy is maybe too young to remember, or he didn’t have young children in the 80s, as I did, but in 1983 there was a wonderful feature film version of “the Wind in the Willows”, followed by more than one TV series. They were produced by Cosgrove Hall and voiced by wonderful British character actors such as David Jason and Michael Hordern. Both the feature film and the TV series were, according to good old Wikipedia, “sometimes misidentified as being filmed in claymation, which is incorrect. The method used by Cosgrove Hall is a stop-motion animation process using scale model sets and pose-able character figurines.”

Best version

A review of the 1983 feature, on Amazon, says: “Before it became a Wallace-and-Gromit ghetto, model animation was pioneered by Cosgrove Hall – and this is arguably their magnum opus. Beautifully produced, lovingly detailed, with a great vocal cast and classy score, it has the nerve to stick closely to the book. As a result it is the best screen version by miles and, in my opinion, likely to remain so.” To which I can only say “hear, hear!”