From the Editor’s Desk
In a summer which was woefully short of good news I came across a story which really made me smile. It concerned a lady named Betty Bromage, from Evergreen’s home town of Cheltenham. On a clear June day, this former nurse took to the skies strapped to the wings of a vintage biplane and achieved a new record by becoming the UK’s oldest female wing- walker. Betty, you see, is 88 and firmly believes that: “You are never too old.” Her astonishing achievement saw the grandmother of two breaking her own record, which she set in 2016. Admitting that she had always been “a bit of a daredevil”, both her airborne feats were for charity, the latest for the Cobalt Health appeal, and she reached heights of 200 feet at 140 miles an hour! What’s more, she’s promised that, as long as she’s fit, she’ll do the same next year.
What I loved about Betty’s story, was that it epitomised the determined, exuberant and generous spirit of the older generation. Here was a joyful affirmation of age in an era that is obsessively focused on youth. Valuing those who represent the future is vitally important, but it shouldn’t be at the exclusion of peer groups from the past and present. They still have so much to offer.
Of course, neither you nor I need reminding of this. The wonderful memories you share with us, and the incredible history you have lived through ( your ages range from 50 to over 100!), are a source of admiration, fascination and delight. However, I am also aware that in certain areas of society, appreciation of and respect for the elderly are painfully lacking. The wisdom and vast experiences gained from a long life are often belittled, or harshly dismissed. Just lately, though, I’m detecting that thanks to the effervescent, indomitable character of the golden generation, attitudes towards age are finally starting to change.
Forget the “Youthquake”, we are living at a time when the number of centenarians has exceeded 14,500, the highest ever. With better health
care and living standards many people are, where possible, choosing to delay retirement and work longer. We certainly aren’t short of inspiring individuals who surpass those of us a fraction of their age, with their work ethic and energy. Surely the most outstanding are Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip who, at the ages of 91 and 96 respectively, are exemplary in their dedicated service to the nation. Even though Prince Philip is, quite deservedly, retiring from public duties, he shows no sign of slowing down. The Queen, meanwhile, continues her demanding schedule of engagements and, in frequently uncertain times, remains a constant guiding figurehead for us all. This November the royal couple will reach another milestone, their 70th wedding anniversary.
The field of entertainment glitters with a stellar cast of actors, comedians, singers and musicians whose continuing performances showcase their exceptional, timeless talents. From Ken Dodd to Ian McKellen, Judi Dench to Paul McCartney, and Maggie Smith to Tom Jones, between them they bring enjoyment to audiences of all ages. If you listen to Just a Minute on Radio Four there, without a moment’s hesitation or deviation, is 93- yearold Nicholas Parsons who has kept order among the contestants for more than four decades. The list of these enduring stars is endless and, like them or loathe them, there’s no denying the staying power and popularity of the 1960s pop group The Rolling Stones who are still touring well into their seventies at a collective age of 293!
Literary history includes other late- life luminaries: Daniel Defoe ( 1660- 1731) was 60 when his classic Robinson Crusoe was published; Peter Mark Roget ( 17791869) compiled his famous Thesaurus at the age of 73; and the bestselling novelist Mary Wesley ( 1912- 2002) had her first novel published when she was 70. Such are the creative rewards to be reaped from age and experience.
But besides these famous folk, there are numerous men and women across Britain today whose worthy efforts and endeavours deserve highlighting. If you know of some, why not write in and tell us about these Evergreen Stars and we’ll feature them in future issues? Apart from charity wing- walker Betty, another example I would like to mention is Angel Radio ( www.angelradio.co.uk). This fantastic station was established by Tony Smith in Havant, Hampshire, specially for the older generation — many of whom have become the station’s valued volunteers. From its local beginnings, Angel now has listeners across the UK and worldwide, tuning into its friendly chat, bygone music and nostalgia. It is a marvellous venture.
Autumn is the season when we celebrate a rich harvest, so let’s cheer the Evergreen spirit as we champion this glorious, golden generation.