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On Turning Sixty

4 Minute Read

In March 2020, I turned 60. I had a big party planned six months earlier, as we were in lockdown, and I wanted to allow guests to fix a date in their diary. Friends commented on my forward planning and enjoying having an event to look forward to.

I envisaged singing, dancing, a gorgeous vanilla sponge cake, delicious cocktails surrounded by all the people I know and love. I didn’t want to hide my light under a bushel or pretend I was anything other than my age. When you co-run an organisation about the positives of growing older, it’s essential to walk the walk and talk the talk. Turning 60 is a milestone birthday, and I wanted a big, f*** off party in which to celebrate it.

It didn’t happen. Instead, I took my newly acquired Oyster 60+ card, entered the underground and spent a rainy Monday visiting a handful of friends across London with a keto-friendly chocolate cake cut into slices. I arrived home at 7.30 pm to finish the celebrations with my partner Bob. We ordered a takeaway pizza and burrata, joining a dozen friends from across the world via Zoom, who stopped in to wish me a Happy Birthday. I felt cheated and underwhelmed, the previous two decades celebration held in clubs complete with drinking, dancing and lively conversation.

On reflection, turning sixty hasn’t felt nearly as dramatic as turning forty or even fifty. At forty, I had recently gotten divorced and spent the next ten years perpetually in heat, exploring sexual avenues that were extreme by most people’s standards. At fifty, menopause arrived and with it, hot flashes, sleepless nights and my libido going off a cliff which took about three years to accept. I sold my house, moved my career into technology and, with it, encountered ageism for the first time. Setting up Advantages of Age with Rose, more by accident than design, was a turning point that opened up opportunities and a whole new friendship group. By sixty, I am comfortable in my skin which may not be as dramatic as turning forty or fifty but is a boon.

I’m in a better place mentally, moving forwards financially after some rocky starts. I’m settled in a good way. I’ve rediscovered my voice and taken up jazz singing again after a 35-year lapse, and it feels good to be engaging with that side of my creative life again. I like the attention and the occasional praise. Occasionally I consider all the mad escapades and the frankly dangerous circumstances in which I would often find myself, especially in my forties, and wonder whether there’s any of that younger me still left. While the desire for that outrageous behaviour no longer holds the same attraction for me, I’m not quite ready to let go of the thrill that comes when stepping into the unknown.

The ongoing battle to be in better shape continues. This week a pair of jeans I have struggled to get anywhere close to buttoning slipped on without a hint of fat spilling over the sides. It has taken ten months of changing my eating habits, exercise and daily listens of a ‘Thinking Slimmer’ audio download to achieve this personal goal. I have lived in tent-shaped dresses the past year when I have a wardrobe full of figure-hugging clothes.

Last week I decided to take frumpy ole me in hand, not in an attempt to turn back the clock but to reflect the older but still glamorous me and become more visible. I hired a former stylist I met while working as an entertainment publicist in the 90s; I wanted a ‘look’ for performing jazz & blues. Standing in my bedroom, watching her dig into my wardrobe to find suitable clothes, retrieving dresses and high shoes from my younger days was a form of therapy. ‘I’ve never seen you look like this,’ she said as I paraded around in 4″ heels, a tight red ruched dress, flower in my hair. I almost didn’t recognise myself.

She issued me with a set of instructions.

Cut my hair shorter into a graduated bob.
Trim and tint my eyebrows.
Buy a new colour of blush – something with a pink tint.
Obtain new shoes, with a wedge heel but comfortable.

‘I want glamour,’ she said. ‘Older woman glamour. Sexy, a bit louche. I want to see you perched on a high stool, leaning back but with attitude.’ I looked in the mirror and saw a different me. Yes, I thought. I’ve still got ‘it.’ Issuing me with a shopping list and a recommendation to turn three dresses into pencil skirts has led to a new feeling. I am developing a persona who is me with all the lived experience, the awareness and the self-confidence that has taken me all of sixty years to acquire. I’m well aware it’s an ongoing process.

Although sixty and I had a crap start, I’m aiming to make up for it now, starting with these shoes. Wowza!

Small children are really confused about the link between birthdays and ageing

3 Minute Read

Small Children Are Really Confused About The Link Between Birthdays And Ageing

Which follows which?

Imagine if all you had to do to avoid getting a year older was to not have a birthday party. Simple, right? It turns out that a good number of young kids think these parties are what makes us older.In a study of 99 kids aged 3, 4, and 5, nearly two in five of the youngsters thought that birthday parties were somehow linked to ageing. Don’t have a party, and maybe you can stay the same age.

While the older children seemed to have a better grasp of age and how we get older, the confusion over the link between parties and moving up a year was spread across all of the kids – which is understandable, as they suddenly find themselves one year older after blowing out candles on a cake and singing Happy Birthday.

Results indicate that young children understand certain important biological aspects of the ageing process but exhibit confusion regarding others, including the causal role of the annual birthday party,” write the researchers in their published paper.

Jacqueline D. Woolley from the University of Texas at Austin, and Amanda M. Rhoads from the Community of Hope in Washington DC, ran through three stories with their young volunteers to explore how they understood ageing.

The first story was about a kid who didn’t get a party, the second was about a kid who got two parties, and the third was a more general, control story about a child turning 3.Nearly 20 percent of the toddlers thought the lucky child who got two parties would be two years older; meanwhile, around a quarter of the kids thought the child in the no party story stayed the same age.

A repeat of the study with a different group also produced similar results.A previous study has shown this way of looking at parties as the causes for ageing can last until kids are 6 or 7 years old, though that earlier research wasn’t as specific in the questions it used – instead the children were polled on whether having multiple parties to try and get older was “a good idea”.

Of course, even though these results are fascinating, the relatively small sample size and the fact more than a quarter of the kids got the control question wrong, makes us cautious about drawing any major conclusions here.

But we can’t imagine a much cuter concept than staying the same age until the cards and presents are rolled out – and why wouldn’t young children think this way?The effects of ageing are largely imperceptible to little minds, and then in a flash and a flurry of jelly and ice cream they’re a year older.For the current study, the youngsters were also told a story about a woman who didn’t want to get older. More than 70 percent of the 3-year-olds thought adults could avoid ageing if they so wished, though this dropped sharply with the 4- and 5-year-olds.

And perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise either, as us grown-ups spend so much time talking about wanting to look and feel younger.The researchers behind the study say it’s an important look at both how we come to understand the passing of time, and how much significance our society gives to birthday party celebrations, especially when we’re little.”

Anyone who celebrates birthdays or who wonders about children’s minds should be interested,” Woolley told George Dvorsky at Gizmodo.”Our culture is obsessed with the concept of the birthday party. Parents should enjoy their children and their children’s questions, and discuss these issues with their children as they arise spontaneously.”

The research has been published in Imagination, Cognition and Personality.

Read the full story here: Small children are really confused about the link between birthdays and ageing

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