As I was scrolling through the news last week, a headline caught my eye – and for once, it wasn’t about coronavirus, local lockdowns or increased restrictions.
It was an interview with actress Isabella Rossellini and the top line read: “Ageing brings a lot of happiness. You get fatter and there’s more wrinkles – but there is freedom.”
Naturally, I had to click the link and read the full article, as the 68-year-old is clearly singing from my hymn sheet. Isabella talked about how her confidence has grown with age, and how she’s been able to seize life with both hands thanks to a “freedom” she didn’t have in her 20s and 30s.
Isabella explained: “The freedom is: I better do what I want to do now, because I’ll be dead soon.
“So this is my last chance. Also, there’s a serenity that comes – I had the career I had, good or bad, I did the best I could, and now I continue pursuing what is interesting to me.”
Her words really resonated with me, and it was heartening to see someone talk so passionately – and positively – about getting older. Today, so much of our culture is youth driven, and we often assume “young and beautiful” equals “happy”. But, in my experience, there are so many more benefits to getting older, which we don’t stop to consider.
Much of our first few decades are ruled by self-doubt, worry, striving to meet expectations and fear of the unknown, but when you’re older, those things seem to matter less, and you are filled with a sense of confidence and contentment that can only come with age. What’s more, with your children grown and living their own lives, you have more time (and money) to pursue what truly makes you happy.
Isabella, for example, went back to university in her mid-50s, while I have embraced new work (and play) opportunities outside of sport.
Everything I’ve done in the last 10 years, from dancing on Strictly and presenting TV shows to setting up my charitable foundation and cooking on MasterChef, has been about the enjoyment and experience – not to mention going totally outside my comfort zone. Most of us follow the same career path for 30 or 40 years (perhaps even more now with the retirement age slowly creeping up!) and so our 60s and beyond provide the perfect opportunity to get out of the fast lane and rediscover our lust for life.
It’s easy to think, “Oh no, I’m 60 and going into what Jane Fonda calls ‘the third act’ of life” – but that’s totally the wrong mindset. Ageing is about living life to the full, making the most of every moment, and remembering it’s never too late to try new things. That’s how I’ve chosen to see it, anyway.
I also hope Isabella’s wisdom, and this column, make younger people realise the end of our working life doesn’t mean the end of new beginnings. Trust me, the last place you’ll find me is in the garden or making a fresh batch of scones. I’m just far too busy!
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