Daily Mail

How you can grow old — disgracefu­lly


HOW helpful it would be if you could get some preparatio­n for finding your mojo in later life. There’s no handy booklet called Teach Yourself How To Be Old; you have to make your own way through the geriatric ups and downs.

We oldies often have to face being considered as past it, out of date or old-fashioned. it takes patience and hard fact-facing to accept your new status in the world and to see it as a good thing.

That’s a social matter. Where problems really strike is at home. Suddenly, you don’t feel safe climbing a ladder or standing on a box to get something down from a shelf. A kettle full of boiling water to pour into a teapot is not just promising a welcome cuppa, it’s also threatenin­g danger. As are pavements shimmering with frost. Rugs are a minefield, stairs can be lethal. if you are with affectiona­te relatives, awareness of these dangers is particular­ly striking. i am 95 and have lived with my younger daughter, Constance, and her husband, mike, for four years, ever since i woke up one morning in my flat in Cortona, Tuscany, and couldn’t get out of bed. Constance arrived the next morning and within five days my life as an independen­t widow was over and i was in an air ambulance to London. Everything changed. i’m no longer head of a household. i don’t manage every detail of my affairs, though i do judge and give consent (or not). my friends and acquaintan­ces have been left behind. i’ve had to abandon a lot of my childhood possession­s. This would be horribly sad if there weren’t some things that are so cheering: the generosity of my family in taking me in; arriving here just before Covid; and the funny events connected with the physical difficulti­es of old age. There was the time i got on the floor to retrieve something i had dropped, couldn’t get up again and had to shout for help. The three of us ended up doing a sort of waltz for several minutes, convulsed with laughter, before i was heaved back onto my bed. Whenever i put on tights, it takes 15 minutes to get my second foot into the empty leg. minor mishaps with earrings and zips can be entertaini­ng if you don’t persist in gloomily rememberin­g how easily you dealt with them decades ago. A good rule is: don’t do anything in a hurry. Be prepared to take at least twice the time you used to. Perhaps that is how our much-needed old age booklet writer should start.

Zelda Craig, London W12.

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