Supermodel Christie Brinkley turned 65 last week, but declared her 'spirit age is much younger'. So are you only as young as you feel? Our panel of wr
Supermodel Christie Brinkley turned 65 last week, but declared her ‘spirit age is much younger’. So are you only as young as you feel? Our panel of writers reveals the ages they are at heart . . .
FORGET BEING YOUNG – I WANTED A LAWNMOWER
Real age: 55. Spirit age: 56.
Only twice have I felt my real age — when I was six, and now I am about to be 56. On both occasions there was a literary connection.
Supermodel Christie Brinkley celebrated with friends and family at her 65th Birthday party in New York last Tuesday
I have a clear memory of staring at the long looking-glass in my mother’s bedroom on February 6, 1969 — my 6th birthday — and thinking: ‘This is the business!’ I was wearing the uniform of a school where I was about to become the youngest pupil and I felt I had escaped kiddiehood.
A. A. Milne’s poem Now We Are Six ends: ‘But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever. So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.’ That’s how I felt that day. Over subsequent decades my ‘spirit age’ was mostly far older than my real vintage.
The first LP I bought, aged 12, from the Cirencester branch of FW Woolworth, was Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. As a teenager I ached to wear baggy corduroys and smoke a pipe. I have owned only one pair of jeans and they were not a success.
Quentin Letts says his spirit age is around one year older than his actual age
At university in Ireland I hated the pressure to be ‘with it’ and dated a beautiful Belfast artist who was ten years my senior. As a 30-year-old reporter, I envied older journalists who had seen the world and mastered their craft.
When I married Lois in 1996, I knew she was a cracker yet felt itchy when grannies cooed over us as ‘love’s young dream’ and told us: ‘It’s all in front of you.’ I didn’t want to be young. I wanted to be established, successful, my own man, with a lawnmower and a drinks cabinet and shoe-trees.
Now I’ve got them and it feels right.
In The Idiot, Dostoyevsky writes that 56 is the age at which real life can begin: a ‘fine complexion, sound though discoloured teeth, a stocky, solid figure, a preoccupied air in the morning, a gay face in the evening’.
There is also, though this he omitted, a disposition to pity anyone younger, and a sense of relief to have left behind youth’s gulping gawkishness. Thank heavens for middle age.
EVEN AT 56 I STILL GET SCHOOLGIRL CRUSHES
Real age: 56. Spirit age: 16.
Susannah Constantine ‘still get schoolgirl crushes’
So, Christie Brinkley jokes that she’s turning 50 for the 15th time, declaring her spirit age is far younger than her 65 years. Why has she chosen an age that is ten years older than she looks?
When it comes to how I feel, I’d put it at somewhere around 16. I still get schoolgirl crushes and it would be wonderful to have no responsibilities. Often, I see myself in my children and it makes me laugh when I tell them to behave or grow up, when inside I’m wanting to do exactly the same as them, despite the statins, hot flushes and insomnia.
I yearn to eat rubbish as often as I like without pumping up the cholesterol levels. I’d love to be able to sleep until noon. It would be heaven to have a night on the tiles and not look like stale bread the next morning.
Sadly, at the ripe old age of 56, it would be unwise to live my spiritual age because it could take me to an early grave.
MARRIAGE GAVE ME THE MIDLIFE BLUES
Real age: 40. Spirit age: 28.
Henry Deedes’s spirit age is the age he got married
My spirit age — 28 — is the age I got married. That’s not a dig at my ex-wife, we had many wonderful times. Still do. But I feel younger now than I did then.
Midlife complacency set in prematurely after marrying. The burden of responsibility meant I neglected myself.
Week nights covering the canape-and-Krug party circuit had left my skin sallow, my belly blubberous. Home life was often a whir of bills and builders as I tottered under the weight of a mortgage bigger than the Brexit divorce fee.
These days, I eat better, drink less and am mildly more solvent. Frequent exercise means I can wear T-shirts again without feeling like a lager-tummied extra from Benidorm. That feeling of youthful spontaneity is wonderful. I have a sense of adventure again.
Every now and again I get a quick reality check. Hangovers get harder. Hair gets greyer. And yesterday I ordered a hip support from Amazon to wear in the gym — but let’s not dwell on that.
CHILDREN CAN TELL I’M NOT A GROWN-UP
Real age: 51. Spirit age: 15.
I have never lied about my age and told everyone when I turned 50 last year. But that might be because I am certain, deep down, that the largest part of me remains resolutely 15.
Rowan Pelling never lied about her age
I have spent my life avoiding certain adult responsibilities (tax returns, form-filling, housework, the duller side of childrearing) and veering off into my own vivid, imaginary world.
I still make the kind of intense friendships I made at school and like sloping away from chores like a naughty schoolgirl having a ciggie behind the bike sheds.
My life would have fallen apart, I suspect, if I hadn’t married a proper grown-up who provides the necessary domestic balance. I happily wear clothes many peers would judge to be age-inappropriate, such as skinny jeans, short skirts and bikinis, and only yesterday I received a Sex Pistols T-shirt in the post.
Children (little girls in particular) often recognise I’m not a real grown-up and are happy to talk to me about unicorns, imaginary friends and dragons. If there’s a trampoline or a game of ‘It’, I’m first in the queue.
My chief guilty pleasure is nestling in an armchair with a clutch of favourite children’s books.
I don’t think I chase youth: I’ve never had Botox or filler and I’m happy with my wrinkles. But I suspect feeling young is what makes a person buzz, not looking it. If I were ever to have a tattoo, then it would say simply: ‘There are no rules.’
IN MY DREAMS I’M 17 AND A RUGBY HERO
Real age: 78. Spirit age: 17.
Stanley Johnson dreams of being a rugby hero
Even now, I dream about my schooldays when I played prop in rugby for Sherborne, aged 17.
The other side (Marlborough? Clifton?) kicks off. I catch the ball full-toss and charge straight for the line, looking neither right nor left, to score under the posts.
Of course, I’m not arguing that the grit and determination you acquire on the rugger field as a schoolboy is the end of the story. Yes, I wanted to gain a rugger blue at Oxford after I left school, but I also wanted to get a First and be President of the Union.
As it happened, I flunked all three goals, but there was one great consolation prize which I have cherished all my life: I won the Newdigate Prize for poetry with a 98-line poem called May Morning. I had to recite it at the university’s summer prize-giving ceremony, Encaenia.
Charlie Chaplin was one of those honoured that year. He signed my programme and, 56 years later, I still have it.
In a nutshell, my spirit age still hovers around 17. I have the sense that even though I hung up my boots years ago, it’s worth charging full-tilt towards the goal.
BEING A YOUNG DAD WAS THE BEST TIME
Real age: 78. Spirit age: 29.
Emotionally frozen at the age of 29, that’s what I was. That’s how I still think of myself.
It was the age when I became confident that I knew how to do what I was good at.
We bought a big, run-down house on my 29th birthday in 1970 and it felt like a new beginning, setting off on a new adventure with a future rich in hope and possibilities.
Ray Connolly is ‘frozen at the age of 29’
That was also the time when I was a young father. I liked the role of being a dad — I still do. Not the sort of dad who helped much around the house, more the type who saw children as people to amuse and who enjoyed being amused by them.
I expect lots of men identify with being in their late teens — which suggests to me they must have had more success with girls at that age than I did. Marrying Plum when I was 25 was the best thing I ever did. We’ve grown old together, but still reckon the years when the children were small were the best.
It was hard, of course. Not much money, two children and soon another on the way, redecorating all four floors of our home in the evenings — Wedgwood blue and white panels nearly everywhere.
Not everything has turned out as I hoped. There have been some mistakes — like selling that perfect house — and setbacks. But I’m still happily working seven days a week, still getting new ideas and beginning new projects. Still feeling all of 29.
WE GRANNIES ARE FULL OF ENERGY
Real age: 70. Spirit age: 30.
I have been in my early 30s for almost 40 years. Although clearly my body is older, my enthusiasm for new projects and my energy are the same, and my creativity is as full-on.
Lynne Franks has ‘been in my early 30s for almost 40 years’
At 70, I am opening three new businesses, have moved to a new home in Somerset where I’ve never lived before, and am still optimistic about love and romance.
I know good health is vital to keeping up my energy and I eat well, take the best natural supplements and stay as physically active as I have time for, with regular boxing sessions, daily dog walks, tennis lessons and dancing.
But I think it’s my love of life and excitement for what each day will bring that keep me feeling less than half my biological age.
I meet so many women in my work as a coach and mentor who are my age and planning their next career. It’s as if being grandmothers and well past the menopause has given us a new lease of life.
Laughter, love, creative ideas, hugs and a belief that we can work together to create a new and better kind of world is what keeps me and my friends spiritually 30.
IS IT TIME I FOUND A PROPER JOB?
Real age: 69. Spirit age: 27.
If you’re a freelance, your spirit age stays shamefully young. Actors and musicians know the feeling, too, and I suspect a lot of us still unconsciously feel about 27.
It’s understandable: you have never been a serious employee, corporate executive or brisk office manager; never been eligible for a company pension, sick pay, maternity leave or an unfair-dismissal tribunal. So you roam the landscape as bright-eyed and wary as a weasel.
Libby Purves says freelancing keeps you ‘shamefully young’
You always wonder about the next contract or the next gig, and never mind being busy; you remember how the young Roy Hudd, complaining of overwork, was told by a grand, old, end-of-the-pier agent: ‘Roy, a full date-book is a happy pro!’
You rather relish the sense of adventure involved in professional insecurity, wondering who might try to hire you next and if you would match up to their style, or be able to tolerate the management’s notorious attitude problem.
Like a twentysomething between boyfriends, you have a giddy sense that something intriguing and wonderful might be just around the corner. And when it isn’t, you learn to laugh it off and scrounge around for anything that’s going.
Yet you’re not a callow teenager: by the mid-20s you had learned to accept nasty rejection without falling into a furious depression.
At the same time, you have started to know your value and your price and nerve yourself occasionally to say: ‘No.’
But always there’s that roving eye for a new chance, and a faint sense that maybe you ought to be looking for a ‘proper job’.
Even when I had two small children and lived in a Suffolk field, it was impossible not to read the situations vacant column and go into some mad fantasy of retraining as a psychiatric nurse, PE teacher or automotive bodyshop manager.
And, shame to say, I still do.
I’M IN MY PRIME STILL, AREN’T I?
Real age: 71. Spirit age: 34.
Roger Alton says his body feels 171
My passport says I’m 71, but most of the time my body feels 171.
Especially in the morning (come on knees, do your stuff and get out of bed) or the afternoon (try not to snooze with your mouth open), not to mention the evening (have a shower, not a bath, or you’ll never get out). Then there’s the nights (not the bloody loo again).
All a bit embarrassing for a chap who still thinks he’s 34 — physically, socially and professionally in the prime of life, with a rich circle of sporting and friendship associates. Eh! Who are you kidding?
‘Hi guys. Any chance of a game? I heard you were short and I’ve got my kit.’
‘Actually, it’s OK. But we’d love it if you would make the tea.’
I am not alone: Sergio Parisse, veteran captain of the beleaguered Italian rugby team, was asked if he was thinking of retiring before his team played Scotland last weekend.
Not really, he said. ‘In my head I’m still 16.’
I know how he feels. Now, if I can only get up and head for bed . . .
YES, THERE’S LIFE BEYOND STRICTLY
Real age: 74. Spirit Age: 74.
John Sergeant feels his exact age
I get worried when a young person says: ‘I’m going to go round the world and try to find myself.’
This attempt is unlikely to succeed — for we have many selves, from diligent child to grumpy old man, via many other characters on the way.
One of my great joys has been being able to take part in a contrasting range of activities, be it Strictly Come Dancing or reporting Parliament and, somehow, making each one my own.
To thine own self be true — but I have preferred to be true to mine own selves.
My spirit age is highly variable. Sometimes I feel like a teenager, reluctant to get out of bed in the morning. Running up stairs is now a fairly rare pleasure — I am more likely to imagine that my 90th birthday looms.
My spirit age also changes as the year progresses. At the moment I have adapted well to being 74.
I feel plenty of adventures still lie ahead. But in just over two months I will be 75, and that is a source of unease.
I think the best plan is to set my spirit age at 74 until I am ready to take stock.