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In Praise of 80 year olds

Over the past few months I’ve been researching for a new book which focuses on the older adult. I mean in their late seventies and eighties because being sixty, I don’t consider myself old. It’s all relative.

  My father retired aged sixty five from nursing and being on his own, three months later went back to work as a volunteer in the Nightingale hospice in Derby until his sudden death at eighty six. He was an inspiration to so many people as he gave back in his later years and wanted nothing in return. I realise not everyone is lucky to enjoy such good health as he did in their later years or they may have difficulty getting out of the house for various reasons.

   While Judi Dench said in an interview with the Telegraph in 2015, “ There is nothing good about being 80,” she has continued along with some of her contemporaries to carry on performing, insisting that she had no intention of retiring and was all for trying new things.

  This is inspirational for those of us who are already looking ahead and wondering what the advancing years will have in store for us. As a writer, providing I don’t lose my faculties, I hope to keep writing because there is nobody to stop me. Continuing to be published is another matter but then Mary Wesley was described as defying literary convention by becoming a best-selling novelist at the age of seventy. Hope for me yet.

   What about those octogenarians who haven’t risen to fame and fortune? How are they making the best of their golden years? I decided to find out and came across someone I would like to tell you about.

  A year ago, I took up acrylic painting, daubing more like, and watched young, enthusiastic artists on You Tube teaching how to paint trees and bananas. When I got fed up with fruit in a bowl, I searched out new people and came across a uplifting watercolourist who has been painting for over seventy years. His name is Alan Owen from Lancashire. Now in his eighties, he shares his talent on You Tube two or three times a week, specialising in the loose style of Edward Wesson. Not only has he mastered the technology of filming while he’s painting, he treats his online students like friends, chatting away in his broad Lancashire accent. He always has a kind word or a joke and thanks us by name from time to time for tuning in. Good, old fashioned kindness.

  Many of us comment that it’s like being next to him having a cuppa while he paints. Some of us wish we lived next door to him. Even if you don’t want to paint, it’s so relaxing to watch him work. Why not check him out?

  Alan mentors those of us who didn’t know one end of a paintbrush from the other and encourages us by saying, “Come on, you can do that, I know you can.” Not like my bullying art teacher at Grammar School in the late 60s. If anyone criticises him, he handles it with courtesy and aplomb, an example to anyone who would like to attack the internet trolls with some scalpel sharp retort.

   I am sure there are many others out there who are passing on their talents; painting, knitting, mending, woodwork or whatever and we should be applauding them for their time and generosity.

  Eighty might not be the new sixty but it’s no longer something I fear. Move over Mary Wesley. I’m next in line.


Alan Owen https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjfgIsGMmaGtG8DAgmdeYng



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