Anyone who has read my blogs and articles will know that a major theme in my writing is my experiences with my dad during his 19 years with dementia.
Whilst my dad has, and always will, provide huge inspiration in my life, my mum Jean has also made an amazing contribution to the person that I am. Mum has recently celebrated her 75th birthday, and while many writers often fail to put the voice of older people at the forefront of their writing, I wanted to go some way to redressing that balance by finding out directly from my mum what life is really like at 75.
I started by asking mum how she feels about being 75:
"I don't feel any different to how I felt when I was 60. In many ways I've found ageing to be quite liberating. I feel a certain freedom now that I don't have the pressure of going out to work. There are lots of things I enjoy doing, and if anything it's difficult to find the time to do it all."
I know from our countless conversations that my mum has seen a lot of changes in her 75 years, so my next question asked her about the most memorable things that have happened in her life, and how she has been affected by the evolution of products and services:
"Certainly society has changed a huge amount during my lifetime. From the war years to post-war years, from food rationing to now an abundance of food - perhaps too much of it. The swinging sixties was an era of great change, but I won't go into the details of that! On a personal note, getting married and having Beth was a big change for me."
"I worked at Heathrow airport in the 60's and early 70's, and I've noticed huge changes in the travel industry since then, particularly around the security we have now. Of course there has also been immense technological innovation - with cars that practically drive themselves (so I am reliably informed), and communications which are in a whole different world compared to my younger days, when we had to send telegrams, make crackly phone calls or send telex messages. Now we have tiny phones that seem to do everything and have done away with our diaries, memo books and just about everything else."
Having seen so much change, I wondered if there was anything in my mum's life that she would alter. I think her answer is one that many people will empathise with:
"For my husband to not have developed dementia - he was my companion and soul mate. I miss the company of another person of my own age, and interacting about the events that have happened throughout the years."
As someone in my (rapidly approaching) mid-thirties, I'm always interested in the tips and advice older people can provide, so I asked my mum what advice she could give younger readers about ageing:
"Accept it for what it is and enjoy it. Often people are more attractive as they age - age gracefully and ignore pressure to alter things about yourself. Keep fit, have a healthy diet and lifestyle, and make time for yourself. In short, act as if you are twenty years younger and as if you'll go on forever!"
Photo courtesy of Kois Miah
Mum and I recently attended the 'Older People in the Media Awards', so with that event fresh in our minds, I asked mum how she feels about how older people are portrayed in the media and by society?
"Overall I would say that there needs to be more respect and consideration for older people in the media and society. I think sometimes older people can be regarded as a burden or a nuisance, but you will find many more older people who are much loved and cared for by their families, and well respected in their communities. I would hope that one day older people will be able to see their golden years through without the stress and worry of financial difficulties, housing problems, loneliness and isolation. This country owes so much to the older generation, particularly all those who have served the country, in whatever capacity, to give us the freedom that we have today."
Finally, I asked mum what her hopes were for the future:
"To have good health in order to participate in all the activities that I enjoy doing, including walking, horse-riding, gardening, needlework and decorating. And last but not least, to see my daughter happy in whichever way she chooses her life to go."
Mum concluded by telling me that she has so much more to say and could, "Write a book!" Watch this space...