I went to a family funeral this week – that of my Great Aunt Jean who was 92, a lovely woman who I spent a fair bit of time with when I was a kid.
I have many fond childhood memories of family gatherings, evenings playing cards (for pennies) and walking the dog with her, but as is often the way, though, I haven’t seen her much at all in the recent past. In fact, I struggled to remember the last time I’d seen both her and her husband, John.
In fact, I probably haven’t seen much of my extended family for a number of years – not a deliberate choice, but just ‘one of those things’.
So the funeral was a wonderful chance to catch up, but also to be reminded of age and ageing. Everyone looked broadly the same, except most of us were all a bit older, greyer – possibly bigger – and slower.
Ageing isn’t exactly a revelation. We all do it – but for the most part it’s imperceptible. We often only notice when we see an old photo of ourselves and the physical difference feels rather marked.
But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing – there’s a misconception that getting older, particularly once you hit 40, that it’s all downhill.
People try to put us down
In the same week as I went to the funeral, I also went to see a Roger Daltrey gig. For those of you under 40, he was the lead singer of The Who, before going onto have a solo career, and famously sang ‘I hope I die before I get old’, in My Generation (see below).
Well, Roger is now 78, so the words he sang didn’t quite come true. But what struck me (aside from his voice, which remains astonishing many decades later) was his obvious zest for life.
And this was also evident in the assembled crowd. Granted, we were all seated in the soulless atmosphere of the Brighton Centre, rather than moshing at The Marquee Club, but the fact that so many 70-somethings had come out to see Roger and his assembled band demonstrates that a lust for life doesn’t fade away once you collect your pension.
Sure, the body will inevitably start to fail us all to a greater or lesser extent, but it’s the mindset that has to be the key.
And that was also evident in my great aunt. She only lost her mobility in the last couple of years of her life and maintained her sharp brain and sense of humour right till the end. And that’s surely all we can ask for.