As you know I’m a deeply frivolous person but, occasionally, I get serious.  And this is one of those occasions – bear with!

I was going to give you a blow-by-blow account of how we came to our big decision. You know, the one that’s got me de-cluttering.  Very successfully, I must say.  And I still might do that in a later post, but I want to go beyond a focus on myself and comment on a slightly bigger picture.

I’ve been reading Ashton Applewhite and her book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism – it’s good.  Also, been looking at the British Geriatrics Society blog and some of their posts.  I’ve left a couple of comments below-the-line.  Well, why not?  I was, once upon a time, a nurse.  In the era of hospitals actually having beds to spare to look after older people and not consider them ‘bed blockers’ – don’t start me on that!

This is leading up to me commenting on the current (mainly 1st world) cultural narrative around ageing, which is about being healthy and vibrant and, above all, active, which is absolutely good.  I totally accept that.  But. I just want to unpick this a little.

Two things: first, a couple of weeks ago I read about ‘superagers’.  The University of Boston has conducted some research on people over 65 who have brain function on a par with 25-year-olds.  And the one common factor?  These over-65s engage in exceedingly demanding mental exercise – indeed, the researchers suggest you should take on a topic or interest that almost makes your brain hurt.  The best brain exercise you can do is, therefore, not a crossword or sudoku (never got my head round that at all) but learning a completely new foreign language or a musical instrument.  And this, apparently, along with vigorous exercise, is the way to go.  It’s an area of on-going research, they say, but these ‘superagers’ flourish in later life, because this pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will rewire your brain and help you stay mentally healthy.

There’s a bit more to it than that summary.  However, I don’t know about you, but I feel exhausted just re-reading the above paragraph!

Then, I note the environment within which I write – the fashion blogosphere.  With the honourable exception of some of the fashion, makeup and lifestyle bloggers in their 60s (you know who you are) mainly I get quite a sense of a lot of avoidance tactics around ageing.  There’s a lot about anti-ageing and looking younger than your years disguised as ‘looking your best’.   Because looking 10 years younger than your age is, so obviously, such a good thing.


Well, I think we should enlarge our idea of beauty and our idea of age, and what it is to be old.  And get away from this dread and denial of ageing.  Instead, let’s be radical!

First of all.  Let’s see older people as individuals.  And have none of this 65+ grouping of older people.  Does it drive you nuts when the fashion media does outfits for 40, 50, 60+?  I could spit tacks, as quite often the 70+ group is left out or called ‘onwards’! I took this up with one well-known blogger when she wrote about the 40, 50, 60 or whatever age groups!  I commented that as a member of the ‘whatever’ age group, could you possibly give us a mention!

Or if 70+ is included it’s a very track-suit, comfortable kind of clothing – err, no thanks, that’s not me! Anyway, i) a 65-year-old is going to be very different to a 95-year-old. And ii) us older people, we’re all very different, distinctive and unique.  When we’re born – think of our genes, class, IQ, health, weight, environment, upbringing, family just for a start. And, as we’re different then, so we will also age differently.  Think of the range of life experiences we all have.

And because we are all going to age differently, a continuum of ageing could show at one end the frail older people who need help (but more about that in a tic) and on the other fit and healthy older people.  Meanwhile, those ‘superagers’?  Applewhite would see these as the outliers of the healthy and active older age group – these are the exceptions.  Not everyone will be like this.

It is OK to just be. To think. To sit. Have a cup of coffee. And allow yourself to be old.  Why the dread?

The reaction to our decision to move to a retirement flat was telling:  people in their late 70s and 80s said, ‘Oh, I wish I’d done that’; friends in their early 70s said, ‘oh yes, I’ll probably do that, but later’; and people younger than 70 mainly said, ‘WHAT!  And one person, said, ‘but why would you want to be mixing with older people?‘ Hmmm, I gave this person a longer response, which could be summed up as i) don’t be ageist and ii) I am old, sweetie!  The thing is there’s a lot out there about helping, serving, and delivering services to older people, who are so obviously in need.  My response to that is what a passive, negative, one-way (as in receiving stuff) view of ageing.  This is very much a deficit model of ageing – that we all fear.

Anyway, here are some ideas (not a manifesto – too grand) I have about ageing. And by ageing I mean really ageing, as in, not being that vibrant, fit and active older person that everyone wants you to be.  And I have some strong views. Feel free to get back to me on these.

Actually, first and foremost – acknowledge your mortality – yes, do. Where do you think all these aches and pains and other stuff is leading?  Face it!

Then, having done that, do some forward planning. You don’t have to move from your home, like I am (Btw, home to me is wherever I hang my hat) but have a think.  Is your home accessible when your mobility starts changing?  Can you adapt your home?  If not – what are you going to do?

Add to that by doing a little research.  What is out there for you?  In the UK, at the moment we have, or let’s put it this way, just about have, a system of social care.  You think it’s still going to be around after this election (and yes, I am being political here).  Nope – there will be nothing.  And will there even be carers available that you pay for?  Because the market will always step in won’t it?  Maybe, but with us leaving the EU, from where will these carers be recruited?

I think it’s important to dig deep into the current way of thinking, to understand and really look at where all this ‘austerity’ is leading.  Is this the way to run a country? You want a small state – but what exactly does that mean?  And are there other ways to fund our state?  Yes, there are other ways.   But as this is a fashionista blog (most of the time) I won’t give you an economics lecture.  But I do give you permission to be angry, to demand, to not be grateful.  And if you give me the argument that older people are doing so much better than the younger generations I would agree with you, up to a point.  But it is false news to talk about a ‘war between the generations’  because of the baby-boomers so-called wealth from our houses (which can’t be bought by the millennial generation) and our final-salary pensions (which neither I or Mr Frugalfashionshopper happen to have).  This so-called wealth (Really?  There are a lot of people just existing, you know), this is down to our historical position and, policies, always, always the policies of the day – which we vote for.  And if austerity continues everyone will suffer – young and old.

And then, yes, look once more at yourself. No need to make your brain hurt, go for and try out some challenges and new experiences. It could be fun!

Aspire and expand your horizons. Actually, get out of your comfort zone.  Take social media. If I had a penny for every time someone around my age wrinkles their nose at the very idea of social media.  ‘I’m sorry, it’s not for me’ they say.  Often, it’s about the medium – books are better.  Or it’s the social media environment, which is inevitably the work of the devil.    But social media is a reflection of society and your self.  You are a lovely person and therefore your Facebook page will be lovely.  Every time I hear this, I cringe, as my iPhone (could be iPad, or laptop) is an open doorway to people, art, politics, literature, popular culture, news, exhibitions and the current memes of the day.  Everyone is different.  But my point is, don’t close those horizons. Don’t block new experiences. Don’t restrict yourself to what you know.

Say to yourself, and to others – it is OK to be old. Really, it is.

As well as the digging deep under the covers to look at the society we live in, do a little campaigning around ageism – could be in the fashion field, or medical, or whatever, you decide.

All the above is going to be expanded and worked on – because this is what I’m really engaged with.  And note I’m not putting healthy eating, sleeping and doing a lot of exercise here – that’s obvious.  Everyone knows that – don’t they!

And if you’ve read to the end.  Can I say I made this post more political than usual, because I was inspired by two Brighton Festival events.  The first was George Monbiot‘s take on society’s epidemic of loneliness and his uplifting and life-affirming solution that together we can act to defeat society ills.  All that with songs – it was a brilliant gig.

And then here’s me rushing off to a talk given by Polly Toynbee and David Walker.

Don’t you love the shoes?  The blue bit is an exact depiction of the bones of the foot.  Flat shoes can be wacky!

The talk was totally brilliant and a hard look at austerity and the cuts that have happened and will continue to happen if…

Normal service will be resumed towards the end of the week.

With love, Penny, the frugalfashionshopper







37 thoughts on “Radical ageing – is it possible?

  • 10th May 2017 at 9:32 am

    Hi Penny, great post and maybe I should take a look at your ‘other’ blog! My parents are ageing really badly – dad deliberately ‘cos he’s always been an awkward b*gger and mum, 11 years his junior is getting dragged down with him. The only positive I can see in the situation is the lesson their 3 daughters are learning on how not to age and it’s a lesson I’d rather not be learning. At 57 I’ve just started a new blog following a new passion – for Extra Virgin Olive Oil – and I’m rather disappointed by how many people in our circle comment to my hubby on how grave I am. What? I’m not tackling people traffickers in Greece or rescuing people in Aleppo for goodness sake – I’m sitting in my comfortable home on my laptop and iPad sharing my passion for the health benefits of EVOO. Slightly bonkers maybe but brave, hardly. Until we stop associating age with an old fashioned image of our granny or great granny we’re depriving ourselves of some our potentially best, most creative and productive years – not to mention all the fun to be had.
    To answer why buy a retirement flat – as I told my mum, to have people around you who want to squeeze every ounce of life out of every day, to be part of a community not sit at home alone (well, with my father in her case) with no stimulation, life or fun.
    Sorry, long response- I guess we have the same reaction to the ageing nerve eh!
    Have a great day Penny.
    P.s. Shouldn’t your reference to home being where you hang your hat read ‘hats’ in your case?!

    • 11th May 2017 at 7:08 am

      Thanks so much for your comment, Karen. I also looked at how my parents aged and the thing was – there was no plan, whatsoever. And after my dad died and my mother was on her own it was entirely up to me to do everything because, long story, she was very dependent on others to make decisions. But, I was working full-time commuting to London with teenagers as well. I won’t go into the details but I did say to myself, I will NEVER do this to my children – hence our forward planning! And yes, it’s do I have room for my hats – just about!!!

  • 10th May 2017 at 9:35 am

    Brave not grave by the way. Although you can’t knock predictive text’s sense of humour making such a change in a rant about ageing can you ?

    • 11th May 2017 at 7:10 am

      I know- predictive texting can be so irritating and also at times, very funny!

  • 10th May 2017 at 10:10 am

    More power to you, Penny! Keep them coming!

    • 11th May 2017 at 7:12 am

      I will, Barbara – but I was inspired by those talks. Listening to things like that really can gear you up and I did make the post a bit more pointedly political and less neutral – and hopefully it’s the better that way.

  • 10th May 2017 at 10:56 am

    Wow Penny – great post – that was definitely thought provoking! I always look forward to reading your blog – but rarely comment – Thank you so much
    P.S. EVOO wonderful – am writing this from Spain at the moment and am drowning in this miracle oil !! Driving through the country side the olive trees are everywhere what a fantastic sight.

    • 11th May 2017 at 7:27 am

      How lovely to hear about the olive trees and EVOO – that’s two of you commenting on it! I do love good olive oil. I’m hoping to get to France for several weeks in September. Thanks for the feedback on the blog!

  • 10th May 2017 at 11:00 am

    Hi Penny!! This post is fucking awesome and you stated everything do eloquently!! Presently in the USA, we have a bunch of criminals in the White House and Congress. They claim to be pro-life when they are actually pro-fetus. Dropping affordable healthcare and ore-existing conditions? Making life difficult for those over65. I can’t even –America is now a death camp of sorts. But I hear ya loud and clear. We are ignored. I writr to cosmetics companies all the time inquiring why they ignore older women and I get no response. I wish I lived near you–there is so much to discuss on this subject…….

    • 11th May 2017 at 7:21 am

      Oh wow, your President – firing the guy who’s investigating him – I do hope those checks and balances are working. Never forget you can vote him out. As we should over here – vote Theresa May out. Unfortunately we have a useless and ineffective leader of the Labour party. Now I qualify that by saying, I believe in everything he says, absolutely do. BUT, the thing is what this guy has to do is convince a reluctant swing voter. And he doesn’t do it. It’s a long story about Corbyn but you have to see him as an old renegade who’s sat in the background for over 30 years and then suddenly through a number of circumstances gets voted in as leader. Wow! And OK let’s give him a chance. Well I have. And he’s hopeless. End of. Oh well roll on June 8th – it’ll be interesting.

      Meanwhile – together, we fight against ageism – yay! And Catherine it reaches everywhere. And I’m whispering it to you, even in the blogosphere, shhhh. Let’s both of us watch out for the 65+ groupings, or the, ‘onwards’ or ‘whatever’ age groups!

  • 10th May 2017 at 11:08 am

    It’s all very interesting, because what we wear is a choice and the retailers can market age appropriate clothing to us until they’re blue in the face but we don’t have to wear it. However, many people look for a formula they can adopt, something ‘comfortable’ maybe, or unobtrusive. They don’t care much about style, so long as they are presentable. It’s a reasonable point of view. Where I live, older people are still respected and considered wise and valuable members of society. That’s more important than clothes, much as I love them!

    • 11th May 2017 at 7:39 am

      I completely agree with you that people should seek out their own style and wear exactly what they want. And how wonderful that where you live older people are still respected part of society. I think here it’s not so true, because while there is a respect for older people, it’s superficial. In fact, we are not listened to or truly catered for in so many ways, and what I think is the ultimate ageism, we are often lumped together in one mass as the 65+! That is where I take issue with the fashion industry. Some 70-year-olds will want to be sporty, others will want to be comfortable, or stylish, or elegant, or wacky, or whatever. I think that’s what I’m truly concerned about that the 70+ are seen as individuals rather than a group of homogenous elders.

    • 11th May 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Thank you so much, Adebra!

  • 10th May 2017 at 11:57 am

    You’re a breath of fresh air, Penny ?. Long may you rant and be political.
    As a young person I got really angry about being told that I couldn’t do certain things because I was female! Now I get angry about being classed as ‘old’ and therefore I must be a white haired Granny in a rocking chair ? and I can, apparently, only wear clothes that hide my ageing body. Well, I won’t swear on your blog but my riposte is **** that. I am a Granny, I do own a rocking chair, I do knit/sew/crochet but my hair is not grey ( not coloured either, I’m not bothered about going grey). Yes I have wrinkles and bingo wings and I love being older and I refuse to be invisible. I am sorting out my affairs so that my children don’t have to and rearranging my life so that I can cope with failing health but I am living to the end not slowly dying.
    P.S love your outfit

    • 11th May 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Oh Lucid, I love that you’re going to live until the end – brilliant! It’s the lumping us altogether into the one image I detest. Yes, let’s be out there and very, very visible!

  • 10th May 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Brilliant post, Penny. Absolutely spot on. Thanks.

    • 11th May 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks so much, Kay x

    • 11th May 2017 at 1:44 pm

      My attitude re: ageism and ageing has always been there pretty much, but it was fired up by the book, This Chair Rocks. And then it was great to hear both George Monbiot and Polly Toynbee. And Polly’s take on the shrinking state and the way we as a society seem to be just accepting it, was speak to, mix with, converse and discuss this with others which is what I decided to do with this post. So I thank both of these events and the people in them, really.

  • 10th May 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I certainly concur Penny-especially with your advice to try something new or challenge yourself to get out of your routine or comfort zone-including your clothes or style! My 87 year old father seems to be in the “regrets” phase of his life, so I would say don’t be afraid to leave that well trod path to retirement and being a model senior citizen. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. (and it’s happening all over the world) this attitude can warp into a me-first frame of mind, where everyone only thinks of themselves, in terms of housing, health care, and “entitlements”. It’s a conundrum that is going to be extremely difficult to solve. Our socio-economic gap is rapidly widening and I do feel a lot of it has to do with this selfishness (see Spock, Star Trek II- ha ha).

    • 11th May 2017 at 3:34 pm

      Oh yes, Lorraine – apparently you always regret what you don’t do, or haven’t done, rather than the things you did. The thing is we did have a kind of social contract in the UK, which was an understanding, an idea, accepted by all, that the whole of society would have a ‘safety net’ through which no-one would fall. Plus there would be free health care, education, you name it – the state would provide. That consensus has nearly gone apart, that is, from our beloved free National Health Service where people still can get absolutely everything medical free at the point of access. Behind the scenes though it’s a different matter because the private sector/market has taken hold. And will the market continue to provide care for all? No it won’t if we continue to vote for the Tories who are now the same as very right-wing Republicans. I see the influence of Ayn Rand everywhere now – scary!

  • 10th May 2017 at 4:28 pm

    What a thought provoking post & some really interesting comments, too. I didn’t even know that there is a British Geriatric Society; I do now! You’re right, we do have to acknowledge our mortality ( not necessarily an easy thing to do) and ask ourselves what’s the alternative to aging? I think we all know the answer to that. I consider myself fortunate to be here, having already lost friends. Yes, I have wrinkles, laughter lines etc. but I’ve earnt every single one of them! Why are some people ‘sniffy’ about retirement flats? I, for one, will always need people around me. Social media: I have several friends who acknowledge they are frightened by this but what a great way to keep in touch with what is going on in the world. I love writing my blog and connecting with all sorts of people. As for current policy in this country and what will happen to the NHS after Brexit – don’t get me started!

    • 11th May 2017 at 3:42 pm

      I think the thing is, I carry a lot of baggage! My parents and two sets of MOH’s relatives had no plan whatsoever for their frail old age. And three times we had to take on a lot of responsibility for them. Just a little acknowledgement of where things were going and where they might have wanted to end their days might have helped us. As it was, it truly exhausted us – and I said I will NEVER do this to my kids. The thing with buying into retirement flats as opposed to renting and being put into local authority retirement flats – actually everyone is quite different. Apparently we are not the only ones who have decided to move early. I’ll share more when I’ve actually moved – when!!! Personally I see the flat as just an opportunity to live in Brighton – and only incidentally and when we need it, there is a more communal life if we want it. Current policies – well Corbyn’s manifesto is interesting – but will he get elected? Roll on June 8th and the results!!!!

  • 10th May 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Winston Churchill, old, fat and rude. The saviour of his nation.

    • 11th May 2017 at 3:43 pm

      Indeed he was!

  • 10th May 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Penny. An excellent post.

    Yes, we are all going to die and yes let’s not be afraid to acknowledge it and plan for it. Let’s try to keep our brains active and alert as well as our bodies. And let’s take notice of the politics of the day and realise what might be in store for us if we don’t act now!

    I love George Monbiot’s writing and Polly Toynbee is pretty damn good, too.

    • 11th May 2017 at 3:48 pm

      George Monbiot was particularly inspiring as he decided that instead of expanding his ideas on the epidemic of loneliness through the solitary act of writing he would join forces with a folk singer he knew and write songs. The whole event was amazing, heart-warming and very life-affirming. And there’s a CD you can buy – link here

  • 11th May 2017 at 9:42 am

    Thought provoking post Penny. I agree with you on so much of it. Both the main parties make it an election priority not to raise taxes. But surely, if they’re to improve the NHS / education / mental health provision / etc….these things need funding, and not just from someone else’s pot. They know it’s an election loser to talk about tax increases. I can’t bear the short sighted and smug attitude of us, the people, who rail against taxation increases even though the UK, in the main, is a wealthy country.

    Rant over.!
    Gail x

    • 11th May 2017 at 3:58 pm

      Polly Toynbee was very clear that a debate is needed in the UK on what is society, what it is that makes us fulfilled citizens, AND how should this be paid for. During her talk she said how good Tony Blair was (sharp intake of breath from the audience at that point!) but then she went on to spell out exactly what he did. And he did expand the state for the better. However, Polly then went on to say that what Blair and Brown failed to do was get us all (in the UK) to realise that for us to have fulfilled safe lives all of that state infrastructure needs to be paid for – through taxes. She put it all very eloquently and clearly set out how the Tories and the right-wing press took over the debate and now the very idea of a ‘safety net’ is derided. A very disabled man in the audience gave us chapter and verse of how poorly paid and ill-regarded his carers are. And where is all this going? Well, she wasn’t as up-lifting as George Monbiot (see my previous comment) but she did say – we have to take back the debate and turn around these false ideas of the benefits of a small state. They were two very interesting events.

  • 11th May 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I love it when you get serious Penny.

    One key point you mentioned in your blog is about getting out of our ‘comfort zone’ -we don’t have to become quantum scientists, but so many of us get ‘comfortable’ and kinda give up on life?! We create a bubble to protect ourselves from the real world and yet actually protect ourselves from a real rich life. And this can become more ingrained with age. Comfort is probably bad for our health!

    Second key point -‘it’s actually ok to be old’ – even though literally everything in our society says it’s not. I recently went to a women’s group in London:–london.html and we were asked to get into groups by our age: teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s! -We then all discussed what it felt like to do that and each group/decade shared. It was completely incredible to become aware of just how much it affects us, obvious and insidious.

    And a point from me, I really feel that ‘community’ is the key to so many problems in our society/life, we are not building relationships and community in our every day life, throughout our lives, to give and receive support, so much is just about what we can get, and succeed in, and then we end up old, lonely, unhealthy where ever we are and how ever much money we have.

    I love that your blog talks about these issues, can you imagine what it will be like for teens now to be in their 70’s, if we don’t change the way we live?

    • 11th May 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Actually George Monbiot’s talk was very much about the isolation of the individual and how in coming together we can heal ourselves, act and make a more positive communal society. I think a lot of people feel powerless, but if one first cares for the self, then the family, neighbours and the immediate neighbourhood the ripples grow. So yes, we have to care more for our society and the individuals within it. And we have to see through the awful propaganda out there. See for Monbiot’s lyrics which are very telling.

      And it is actually OK to be old 🙂

  • 11th May 2017 at 2:03 pm

    ps. if you love Penny, you might like to check this website:
    ‘This website is for those who do not fully align to today’s commonly accepted view that ageing is to be avoided at all costs, and are open to the idea that there may be another way to age – that ageing can be joy-full, and the choice is up to us!”

    • 11th May 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Laura. Interesting x

  • 14th May 2017 at 1:04 pm

    I expect I’ll have a stroke sooner or later so am thinking about how to make my Victorian terrace viable if I do. Downstairs wet room/loo seems to be a priority while I can afford it. What plans are all of you making? I’m lucky to live in a very community minded street.

    • 15th May 2017 at 8:10 am

      It’s great you live in such a community minded street. That’s where we all need to be. And good for you in thinking ahead and adapting your house. But hey, hope you don’t have a stroke!!!! Keep well and take care x

  • 15th May 2017 at 4:14 pm

    This is a nice story! Thanks very much!

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