Growing old gracefully

Granny had a peculiar expression when she wanted to say someone was aging well (whatever that means!). She said: ” She – or he – is growing old gracefully”.

This expression is in itself an example of how our society treats elderly people with a certain arrogance. To “age well”? Have we ever heard anybody, referring to a teenager, say he or she is “growing up well”? I don’t think so.

But I know exactly what Granny meant, and what this expression means for every one who uses it. It means you grow old discreetly, in all ways: in your lifestyle, in the way you dress and, most of all, in the way you deal with love.

Yes, because in this aspect what society, in general, has expected of elderly people is exactly for them not to have any love life; after all, everybody – not their age – thinks they have loved, married, been widowed, so now they should be quiet, as this “crazy little thing called love ” (as Queen sang with such a sense of humour), is only for the young and the mature. After a certain age, you are supposed to just stay at home watching tv – growing old gracefully – and wait for death.

Well, my friends, the news is that they are completely wrong.

First of all because the human race is living longer, and fortunately in many cases with much more life quality. I know an 85 year old lady who still drives everywhere, goes to the gym and takes all her grandchildren for lunch on Saturdays – a program they just won’t miss! One of my best friends, in his seventies, still keeps up his daily routine – that he has kept for years – of swimming in the sea next to his house every single day of the year, be it summer or winter. Both he and his wife are extraordinarily fit and they lead a very active social life. They also travel whenever they can, be it for a long weekend or on a Mediterranean cruise. They are also taking care of their granddaughters while the girls wait to join their Mom – my friend’s daughter-  in England where she currently lectures at a University. And my friend’s vision is that of a young man, while very wise due to his years. I find it the most incredible combination!

Even when you have some physical disabilities you can keep a lively mind – like my Mom, who has gathered a group of people her age and organizes an English class every week ( she was an English and English literature teacher at University) which she prepares with the utmost care and pleasure – and for all I know has become a success – and was recently invited to hold a lecture on her favourite poet Yeats, the one she has studied for all her life and on whom she is an absolute expert.

Last but not least, take a look at some of the latest – and hottest – romances in the “pink press”: a few years ago the marriage at around 85 of the late Duchess of Alba, an indomitable lady who never gave up the right to be happy and live life to the full until her last days – and that she did, and how people loved and admired her for it, myself included; more recently, we have seen the Nobel prize Mario Vargas Llosa fall passionately in love with Spanish socialite Isabel Preysler and say, referring to their first year together: ” It was the happiest year of my life”. He has just turned eighty and he looks happy, rejuvenated and full of plans, having just launched a new book.

Last but not least, yesterday I was reading a Spanish fashion magazine, Hola fashion, and there was this piece featuring four incredible women, all of them fashion icons, with ages ranging from 70 to 91(!), all of them beautiful and incredibly stylish, despite their wrinkles and white hair, which they wore proudly. All of them still very much active in the fashion world, either as models, personal shoppers or as fashion influencers.

I could go on and on, as there are many examples of “elderly” people who live exciting lives and I believe we have much to learn from them.

And this feels very good. To live longer, to try and keep in good shape, and on top of all to be wise, to have so many lessons learned and still to be able to keep a young heart? How wonderful it must be.

As I’ve read somewhere, the seventies and eighties are the new forties. I’ll drink to that. And I will go on wishing all the best to the couples that, late in life, fall deeply and madly in love like the Duchess of Alba or Vargas Llosa and have the courage to take it on and show everybody they want to make the most of what life is offering them. After all, life should be lived in full, to our last breath – no more, no less. And this is the lesson they are teaching the world.