One of the joys of old age is that you can get away with bad behaviour. Or so they say. You can speak your mind. You don’t have to bother with the niceties.

One of my fears about getting older is that I might say the first thing that comes into my head, and what if it’s bad?

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Did you know that our brains can still create new cells, even in later life? That there’s a scientific reason why older people forget what they came in here for, but continue to get wiser? Or that there really is a “magic wand” for the brain?

These are among the fascinating facts in the late Barbara Strauch’s book The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: Discover the surprising talents of the middle-aged mind* (middle-age being 40 – 65). It’s a readable, layperson’s survey of research about the ageing brain, though the science has moved on since its 2011 publication.

Yes, certain abilities decline in later life, such as our memory for names or being hazy about the when and where of events. But our middle-aged brains are surprisingly competent and talented, indeed ‘our ability to make accurate judgments about people, about jobs, about finances – about the world around us – grows stronger’. Age improves our ability to see the big picture, and that’s not the only positive. Read More →

“How much does it cost?”

I’m at Oxford City Council’s Older People’s Day on 30th September, encouraging older people to take up table tennis. I know they’ll want to know that they can afford it.

For Cowley Table Tennis it’s great value at £2 an hour or £3 for two hours, tea and biscuits included. But it’s not only about money. Whether it’s table tennis or any other activity, if we want older people to be more active, we need to think about what other costs are involved. Read More →

So, London’s first luxury retirement village has opened. Fancy moving in? OK, apartments start at £650k plus £1000 a month service charge, but look at those amenities!

I can see the attraction of living among people of the same generation. We feel comfortable with people like ourselves, who know the same song lyrics and remember slide-rules. Who’ve lived through the same historical events. Who organise their days in a similar way. But is segregating elderly people really the way forward? Read More →

The best kept secret of old age: no, not how to avoid wrinkles, they come with the territory. But the fact that it is an exciting, liberating place to be.

Not for everyone. Bad stuff happens and sometimes it overwhelms us. We need to hear the voices of those who suffer in old age and address their health and social needs.

But at the same time, we need to hear the voices which reflect the joy of later life. That it is possible to grow and thrive, and to enjoy being older. Read More →