Monday 14 July 2008


on this never ending journey

We live in a society that worships youth but it doesn't mean your life has to change drastically or slow down as soon as you hit 40 or 50 or 60 or 100 it seems.

In fact grey power seems to be getting stronger and stronger. In the last week I have noticed lots of stories about our tribal 'elders' which have inspired me to bounce out of bed and face the day, knowing that life can be as great and productive as you want it to be for as long as you want it to be. If you truly want it to be, that is.

First, there is Ronnie Wood the 61 year old member of the Rolling Stones who may well qualify for a free bus pass but is continuing to live the rock star high life. Apparently he has just run off with an 18 year old cocktail waitress and has been on a vodka binge for the last two weeks. Made me smile for some reason even though he hasn't yet grown up. Can't imagine why his wife finally said 'enough is enough'.

Then, I read about the 80 year old Las Vegas star Tempest Storm who has been stripping for over 50 years. Storm is known for carrying a turkey-feather boa, and insists on removing her clothes slowly in the tradition of burlesque.

Some people claim that an 80-year old woman is no longer sexy. Storm says that is “ridiculous.”

“If you want to get old, you’ll get old,” Storm insists. She watches TV perched on her stationary bike, does not smoke, and eats in moderation. It’s important to take good care of herself, considering her job description. Storm can remove a dress in a matter of seconds, and has no qualms about being seen in a g-string. At 80........
Then, there are the 'elderly' Olympians who are still going strong. Australian Laurie Lever started riding when he was 10 years old because it seemed a good idea at the time. Little did he think that half a century on, he would be preparing to compete in equestrian showjumping at his first Olympic Games. At 60, he will be Australia's oldest olympian and certainly the oldest debutante at the Games.

But Lever won't be the only Olympian whose peers are monitoring their superannuation accounts and pondering life in retirement. Japanese equestrian rider Hiroshi Koketsu first competed in the Olympics at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, finishing 40th. Forty-four years later, at the age of 67, he will compete at the Beijing Olympics and reckons he can improve on that position.

A handful of other veteran Olympians have forged impressive careers. Canadian Susan Nattrass is 58 and a trap shooter competing in her sixth Games. The heralded French cyclist Jeannie Longo is 49 and taking part in her seventh Olympics, while Israeli marathon runner Haile Satayin is also 49.

Then a couple of days ago, the world's oldest blogger, 108 year old Australian, Olive Riley, died. She had just made her final post a couple of days before. What an inspiration to all of us. Check out her blog, The Life of Riley.

Then to cap it all off, last night I watched a TV series called Elders. It featured interviews with prominent people who are over 65 years of age.

There was Sir David Attenborough who talked about his life experiences after a lifetime exploring the world and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (Rupert's 99 year old mother) who spoke about her long life, love story, family and philanthrophy.

Then there was the deeply passionate, insightful and spirited Isabel Allende who took us through her life's most difficult moments that have shaped her life. Then there was Helen Thomas, the doyen of the White House Press Corps. From JFK to George W. Bush, she has reported on the highs and lows of world politics for 57 years. Finally, there was Bob Hawke, Australia's longest serving Labor Prime Minister, who is still very much the passionate intellectual.

I think with all the negativity faced today and the sense of hopelessness we sometimes feel (given the economic, political, environmental and social issues we struggle with), it is important to take some time out to talk to the elderly about life and the universe (someone who has really lived a bit so choose wisely). Because when you do, you will quickly realise that the elderly have a great perspective about what really matters in life. They have lived through the depression, illnesses, wars, death, tragedy and survived to learn the lessons and tell the stories. Except not many people stop to really hear the wisdom.
Life is indeed a journey and for some, the longer the distance travelled the more living there is to experience. There is no point camping half way to anywhere.
And, on that note, while I can't imagine wearing a g-string on stage in Vegas even now let alone at 80, I have always had a secret desire to compete in the Olympics in synchronised swimming (stop the sniggering). It's not too late - 2016 games here I come! I just have to perfect 'that smile' under water and find the perfect waterproof makeup.

Have you learnt some important lessons from an elderly person in your life? What does aging mean to you?
Picture - my own 'piece'


  1. Hi Lilly,
    Well one of the things my 84 year old girlfriend loves to say is “If you don’t use it, you loose it.” Helena says that many elders in her age group ‘ stop talking.’ They actually loose the ability to converse. I hadn’t really thought about it, but she’s right.

    She thinks the reason that happens is because when we get old, they start telling stories from decades past and usually more than once. People fuss at them and say ‘you’ve already told us that’. They get self conscious about their ability to communicate and just stop talking. They loose it.

    Then Helena told me she didn’t care. She’s lived for 84 years and if she wanted to tell the same story more than once she would. She put her head back and laughed and said she was going to talk all she wanted until the day she dies. She said if they don’t like it, “it’s their problem”- (Another Helena favorite phrases.)

    On of many lessons I'm learning from Helena is -just enjoy your life and don’t worry about it.


  2. I'd like to see that 80-year-old burlesque dancer in person. If I have her bod, perhaps I'd do the same. lol. Unfortunately, I'm not as endowed as she. Hehe. So my bod is only for my hubby's eyes only. Yeah, even if I were miss universe, I'd still be too shy to strut my stuff in public. Sometimes I talk so wildly, but deep down, I'm just the very shy and self-conscious person.

    Your post is great, and I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Vikki - your 84 year old girlfriend - love it! I wonder who she has had to speak with before you? I always think it would be very sad to have no family aorund when you get to an old age. If you don't use it you lose it, so true! I am going to look forward to more of your stories about Helena because I am sure she has many to tell.

    Tasha - there is a video around of Ms Storm doing her act. She is very thin. Whatever floats your boat I guess but good luck to her really because I couldnt have done it at 20 let alone 80. Yes, like you, I am a little shy too! Must go and check to see how that novel is coming along.

  4. Hi Lilly ~ Yes. I'm going to be 65 in January and do I regret the flight of the 'sweet bird of youth'...."yes"..because each stage of life is precious and I have bid a sad farewell to each one. Most importantly I have greeted each new one with enthusiasm.

    Be(cause I work in a physical profession and still take dance-classes each day, I push myself hard to maintain a physical level. So far I only difference I notice between now and my 20's is that my knee joints need warming-up more carefully (but once they're warm...I go!)

    The big bonus of being old is that I now see "old" people as people and not strange, slightly embarassing objects. I really love sitting and talking to "old" people now....and then I smile because I realise they're probably thinking the same thing about me (if you see what I mean)

    Jess Conrad (an 'old' pommy rock-star I worked with) once said to me that he did things exactly the same as when he was it his 20's (he's 74 now) ... only slightly less, with a bit more rest in between.



  5. Henry - its true isnt it - if you dont kep doing things we get old. I would like to dance now - you should give us some lessons via a video post - how much fun would that be!


Thanks for your comments.