By Bunmi Sofola
I can’t believe I’ll be turning 70 later this year,” observed Stella, an old friend recently as we enjoyed another friend’s 70th birthday. All tanked up on bubbly and all kinds of food; a few of us suddenly sat up! It might not be this year, but 70 is looming for a couple of us. Stella is certainly not coy about the almighty seven-o!
“It might be a surprise even to me but I’m hurtling towards that age,” she continued. “I have survived seven action-packed decades with a few wrinkles but absolutely no regret . I’m of sound mind, and relatively firm body … “
Hurrah! I hailed. “There’s much to be happy about; enough to roll out the drums.” “Don’t bank on it,” she warned surveying the lavish tables at the party. “I definitely shan’t be having a big celebration. You can forget ice buckets filled with fizz, silly cocktails or even live band with you lot gyrating on the dance floor. No special aso-ebi. No give-away packs or my hard-earned money in the palm of a party-planner with outlandish decorations planned for an equally expensive hall. Instead, I’ll just disappear abroad and live things up as dangerously as I could!”
Wow! Stella’s no-nonsense attitude is hardly the norm these days. Where once women celebrated their 21st with enthusiasm, then kept quiet about any date afterwards, now 70 has become a significant date, something to be celebrated with maximum fuss. Until a decade ago, 50 was the ‘big one’; from then on, it seemed life would be downhill. It marked the start of old age, of being sensible, of wearing comfy clothe, not making new friends, following the same routine. Some of the kids had left home and women are stuck with dreary partners, and the future seemed grey, job prospects limited. For women, turning 50 meant being resigned to being ignored at parties and social gatherings whilst older men with almost dead batteries pant after ‘battery chargers’ that could make them get it up!
Today however, many woman feel that life really starts at 60 or 70. It’s no longer the start of the end of your life, it’s just a stop on the journey. People in their 70s are not now written off. They are categorised as the generation born immediately after the last war – the first teenagers who wanted to stay youthful for as long as possible and they have re-defined ageing every decade of their lives. Once, you got married and were settled by your 30s, then the baby boomers made it acceptable to be a thirty- something singleton. They went on to declare that 50 was the new 40, and now are re-inventing the world of senior citizens as they reach 70.
By this age, our parents were often stuck in loveless marriages, embittered. Now there are more single women of a certain age than
ever, spending money on themselves and looking great. Divorce is no longer stigmatised – this generation have become known as the ‘silver splitters’ because once the kids have left home, why stay together? For what!?
Starting a family also changed. If you yearn for a child after devoting your life to your job, it’s possible in middle age. Seventy, not 50, is when your new life begins, not ends. So why do I tend to agree with Stella to give a big celebration a miss when I eventually hit 70? As my friends and some readers are well aware, in the past I’ve had legendary birthday parties. My 50th took place on a sports field adorned with one or two markees after a lavish book launch. My 60th was another big bash at my place with the rain chasing guests off after a celebrity – studded book launch in the afternoon.
Only this time around, I would be calling a halt on big celebrations. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m depressed by the march of time – far from it. It’s just that my time is too precious to spend organising a 70th extravaganza. More importantly, why celebrate being 70? It’s . date and it’s still some time away. Definitely not this year.
Of course, there are down-side to ageing. Can you imagine anything worse than an attractive bloke telling you. “I never guessed you were pushing 70 – you don’t look a day over 50!’ Humph! There are many things I don’t want to draw attention to either. My face could do with a little lift if I could afford it, although once I flashed my charming smile, the jowls are less noticeable! There are also some small changes that make turning 70 different from turning 60. These days, I rarely sleep for more than six hours, although it’s joint pain, not regrets that keep me awake.
I also worry about spending my fmal years alone. It’s not as if I’ve led a celibate life, but I do wonder how much more sex I’ll be lucky enough to enjoy! Then I remember a much admired actor, Judi Dench (the James Bond Monepenny, remember?!) found a new partner in her so-called mature years, and am optimistic; not desperate though!
So why celebrate 70 when I’ve got three decades to plan my centenary? You can snigger all you want, but I defmitely will be around to tell you: ‘I told you so!’
Two elderly couples are enjoying a friendly conversation when one of the men turns to the other. “Arthur, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” says the pensioner. “How’s your course at the memory clinic going?” “Outstanding,” replies Arthur. “They teach us all the latest psychological techniques: Visualisation, association and so on. It’s made a huge difference to me.
“That’s great,” says his mate. “What was the name of the clinic again?” Arthur goes blank, then wrinkles his brow. “Wait there, I can do this.” He closes his eyes and his lips move as he thinks to himself. “What do you call that flower with the red petals and thorns?” he says finally. “You mean a rose,” says his friend. “Yes, that’s it!” says Arthur, and turns to his wife. “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?”