Old age goal posts now closer to 100

ONE of my all-time favourite entertainers was Max Bygraves. Remember him? The cockney lad who delighted millions with his song- and-dance routines, and who will be remembered for such lilting evergreens as Tulips from Amsterdam.

Well, I was saddened to learn that this great artist had passed away in of all places, the Australian Gold Coast, where he lived the last years of his life, as far removed from the sounds of London’s Bow Bells as it is possible to be. He was 89-years-old.

I remember, as will many older East Londoners, the occasion, gosh it must be some 45 years ago now, when Max performed to a packed Colosseum Theatre in Caxton Street.

One of the numbers he belted out that evening contained the lines “will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m 64!”

Sixty-four? – an age which young people in the audience on that long-ago night would have considered very old indeed.

Had Max revisited those lyrics today, I’m sure he would have been delighted to have surpassed that figure by 25 years.

I read a recent survey which revealed the average person wants to live to 83 and that a quarter of us wouldn’t mind hanging on until 100.

About 25 years ago, Alan Bennett, in his play An Englishman Abroad, wrote: “If you live to be 90 and can still eat a boiled egg, they think you deserve the Nobel Prize.”

Today he might want to increase the target figure by 10%, as well as setting a more demanding challenge.

Personally, I would like to see a survey on a related subject: at what age do people start reading the obituaries in their newspapers first?

I reached that landmark a few years back – not just to check up on old friends but also to look at the ages achieved by the deceased and speculate on how much longer I might expect for myself.

Advances in medicine, of course, are a major factor and the varied successes in the lives of my wide- spread family help keep a spring in my step – but would I like to live as long as 100? I think not, even though the compensations of growing old do much to soften its disadvantages.


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