Meeting your Heroes

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead 

Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to meet some of my heroes, and on the whole it has been a positive experience.

The saying goes that you should never meet your heroes because they will let you down, but who would pass up the opportunity given the chance?

As I get older, I find I add fewer people to my imaginary hall of heroes, but every now and then someone comes along that deserves their place and I recently added another – Grandma Joyce Williams.

AWF19 poster FinalWhen I met her not only did she not disappoint, she exceeded my expectations and you too will have the chance to meet her when she comes to the Ageing Well Torbay Festival 2019 at the Riviera Centre in Torquay on Saturday, October 19th.

Make a note, because she is not only formally opening the Festival, she is also giving one of our talks and will be available to answer your questions afterwards.

So what is the big deal? Joyce Williams is 83-years-old and loving life – she became a blogger at the age of 80 and immediately began tackling age-related themes including taboo subjects like sex with titles such as Sex at 70? Sex at 80?

Not surprisingly word spread quickly and before long she was joining Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on the This Morning couch, where she gained greater fame by taking Phillip to task for calling her young at heart.

Joyce was having none of it. In the middle of praising her for being young at heart, Joyce asked: “Can I just stop you there?”

Confused as to what was happening, Phillip agreed before being greeted with a pressing question from Joyce: “Why are you saying ‘young at heart?’”

A little stunned, Phillip responded: “Well, because you are young at heart.”

But Joyce wasn’t happy with that answer as she continued: “No, I’m old at heart.”

Since then her fame has spread further and she now regularly blogs on the subject of ageism as well as tweeting using the hashtags #ageproud and #agepride and not surprisingly she has acquired a well-deserved following.

She is determined to change people’s attitude to age and is challenging the premise that young equals good and old equals bad.

I don’t often get a reaction to this column but my previous piece on ageism and tackling it appears to have struck a chord – particularly among people of my own age – who like me want to know when and why things changed for the worse.

Only last weekend I was chatting to someone who lives in Beirut, and Spain where the attitude to ageing and older people is markedly different to what she finds when visiting her 71-year-old father here.

Two and a half decades ago when she left the UK she recalls that things were very different, which gives an interesting time frame to the very rapid changes that have taken place.

When she last lived here, and learned that her grandmother had just a few months to live, she moved in along with the other grandchildren and her own mother to ensure they didn’t miss a moment of a passing, precious life.

When did it change and can we reverse the trend with the help of people like Joyce Williams who is having none of it and tackling ageism wherever and whenever it arises?

We should all be doing the same. With age comes a degree of wisdom and a wealth of knowledge that should be treasured and exploited wherever possible. Why keep reinventing the wheel when all it takes to solve the problem is a question?

In parts of Europe, particularly in Mediterranean climes, whole extended families live together – sharing lives, cooking together, playing together, learning together and staying together.

And it works.

Our population is ageing and in places like Torbay there are more people over the age of 50 than there are under the age of 50, and that means that there is no room for ageism in our society.

Over the last few decades as a society we have faced up to racism and we have fought against sexism, now is the time to take on ageism.

We need to stand alongside people like Joyce – one of my heroes in my own personal hall of fame and I am looking forward to seeing her again in October to discuss further her campaign for #agepride.

Shame it didn’t go so well when I met Terry Pratchett. But that’s another story.