I see the BBC is running a documentary series about growing older. The first episode focused on the physical aspects of ageing and how you could take steps toward slowing the process. One of the major things you could do, it seemed, was to watch your diet and to cut down on your meat intake. In fact, it was almost suggested that post-fifty, a vegan diet was the one to follow for longevity. “Well”, I thought to myself, “even if you don’t then live until you’re a hundred, at least it will feel like it”.
The next focus was exercise. Of course it was. A simple test was demonstrated that seemingly gives a good indication of how long you might live, which involved crossing your legs, squatting to a seated position on your backside and then standing back up without using hands, knees or elbows to help you on your way. This tested your balance, flexibility and strength (and was much more difficult than it looks). It wouldn’t surprise me if some pensioners break their hips trying it. I almost did.
The next focus was the type of exercise that older people could do and what activity was most effective? For some reason they compared a dance class with one that concentrated solely on spinning upon exercise bikes. Not only did the dance class enjoy their sessions much more than those on the stationary bikes, dancing was the much better fitness activity. Wow! Hold the front page! And I don’t think. Anyone who has ever attended a spinning class knows what sheer, painful drudgery it is. Whereas dancing, once you get over the feeling of humiliation, might be fun. Even I could see that. But at my gym, the communal classes are predominantly aimed at (and are filled by) women. There are plenty of classes that are almost exclusively for the girls – sh’abam, pilates, body balance, Legs, Bums and Tums – while plenty of others are predominantly female, such as yoga, and stretch classes. Guess which class is predominantly male? Yes, it’s spinning. Classes with a good mix of both sexes are few and far between, so I think joint dance classes are still a bit far off. Which is a bit of a shame, really.
The second episode is to focus on brain health. It’s on iplayer but I haven’t got around to watching it yet. No doubt it will advise you to keep your mind as active as possibly, to read books, do crosswords, keep yourself up with what’s happening in the world, develop a hobby and keep learning. You should also remain socially active by attending the gym where, if you’re a bloke, you can be accused of being a pervert by joining the Legs, Bums and Tums class. It probably won’t advise you spend your later years sitting in front of the telly watching programmes about growing older. As with diet and exercise, however, don’t we know all this already? I’m certainly not unaware of many of the things that you need to do to keep yourself fit and healthy in retirement. I often reflect upon them as I eat my packet of pork scratchings down the pub, before heading home to fall asleep in front of the box.
I wonder what Episode Three will focus on? I doubt it will be finances, although this is probably one of the biggest factors affecting your quality of life as you grow older. I just cannot imagine that “Living Fantastically on the State Pension” is going to be the title of any of the episodes in the series. Episode One, and the trailer for Episode Two, seemed relentlessly upbeat and positive about growing older. Being relentlessly upbeat and positive about living on the state pension might be beyond the talents (and knowledge) of any media production team.
LIke much of the BBC’s content, this programme was achingly and unashamedly middle class. As Angela Ripon cheerfully contemplated her new diet of quinoa and kale in her seventy grand kitchen, and the young doctor-come-presenter flew to the U.S. to interview the Californian vegan community, I did wonder how the programme was being received in the NHS old people’s homes up and down the country? It probably wasn’t. But let’s be honest, the best thing the elderly poor can do to allow us middle classes to live longer is to die. The best thing the chancellor can do to preserve the health of the BBC nation is to slash the price of fags and booze for the over sixties while banning mobility scooters and free bus passes. Most of the UK welfare budget is spent on poorer pensioners. We have to find a way to cull them.
Coming to think of it, never mind the poorer ones, cut the price of fags and booze for all the over sixties. And ban us from gym membership too. Encourage us to eat, drink and be merry, smoke fags, do drugs and contract STD’s. Any hard minded and sober assessment of prospective life after seventy just isn’t pretty. If the Big C or a heart attack doesn’t get you, what other demented horror will? Better to go out with a bang than a whimper. And if this isn’t the content of the final episode of “How to Stay Young”, it damn well should be.