Is 70 the new 50? Celebs like Lulu, Alice Cooper and Call the Midwife's Pam Ferris appear to prove it's true
PUBLISHED: 19:32 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 19:42 04 October 2018
There are many more super-septuagenarians, too, this year. Was there something in the air back in 1948?
Writer Mark Twain said, apparently, that “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Nice quip, though my aching knees would quibble. But what does seem clear is that thoughts of “being old” nowadays trouble us later in life.
The Telegraph wrote in 2015 about an estimate from the Office for National Statistics. It suggested the average retiree could anticipate drawing his or her pension for up to 24 years – as much as 50% longer than the previous generation.
And academics from the snappily-named International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna argued old age should be defined as having 15 or fewer years left to live, on average – which for baby-boomers meant we would be middle-aged until our 74th year. Hooray.
The institute’s Sergei Scherbov was quoted as saying “Older people in the future will have many characteristics exhibited by younger people today… 200 years ago, a 60-year-old would be a very old person. Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue, is middle aged.”
American Dr Glenn Whitted gives us more to be optimistic about. “I’m intrigued by the number of active people over 70 who exercise regularly and try to stay fit by eating right and making sure they get decent sleep. These are my patients who tell me ‘70 is the new 50’,” the Ohio medic wrote in a blog.
Perhaps 2018 should be christened “The Year of the 70-year-old”, for there’s a vast number of well-known names who have already hit their three-score years and 10, or will do before 2019 arrives.
Presumably it’s good to have famous faces demonstrating that not everyone is ready for slippers and Flog It! (or whatever replaces it) at 70?
“I certainly don’t think it’s a negative thing, and some of these people can most definitely be seen as positive role models: not only for older people – reassuring and reminding them of what they could achieve – but also for younger people – recognising the wealth of experience, stories and skills that people in their later years have to offer,” says Jo Reeder, head of fundraising and marketing for charity Age UK Suffolk.
Here is our list of 10 “Super at Seventy” stars – proving that you’re (almost) never too old to rock, write, reign (potentially) or dress to thrill.
1. Actress Pam Ferris: So fantastic in everything – from Ma Larkin in TV’s The Darling Buds of May to crime-busting Laura in Rosemary & Thyme, via Aunt Marge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Was her role as the forthright but caring Sister Evangelina in Call the Midwife her best? It was impossible not to shed a tear when Evangelina died in her chair.
Pam left Nonnatus House in 2016 because filming took her away from her husband and dogs for too long. But she hasn’t left acting: she is Queen Victoria in forthcoming film Holmes and Watson, and will also be in film Tolkien.
2. Lulu staged a big tour last year (which included Japan, New York, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds) and next week has a couple of dates at Canary Wharf. The singer was only 15 when her cover of the Isley Brothers’ Shout climbed to number seven in the charts in 1964 and her energy levels don’t appear to have dropped since!
3. Jeremy Irons’s CV is long and top-notch: From his first big film (1981’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which brought a BAFTA nomination as best actor) and West End Shakespeare to playing accused killer Claus von Bülow (which earned him an Oscar). Oh, and Brideshead Revisited.
This year, he’s been a treacherous Russian general in the Jennifer Lawrence spy film Red Sparrow.
4. Andrew Lloyd Webber: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and more… The composer’s music is woven into our lives.
Knighted, an Oscar, 14 Ivor Novello Awards… and a wife, Madeleine Gurdon, with Suffolk roots.
And only last month he, long-time lyrical collaborator Tim Rice and John Legend (American singer, songwriter and actor) each won an Emmy for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.
5. Olivia Newton-John: Fourth for the UK in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with Long Live Love; the success of film Grease; countless hits; and – perhaps most importantly – an inspiration in fighting cancer, as a sufferer and by helping open the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Australia.
Last month, she took part in the annual Wellness Walk and Research Run fund-raiser in Melbourne.
6. Who’d have thought a man whose stage act featured guillotines, electric chairs, artificial blood, snakes, baby dolls and other dark paraphernalia would still be teasing us at 70?
He might look like a ghoul, but Vincent Furnier (better known as Alice Cooper) is off-stage a poetic, cheerful and funny soul, people suggest. His album Paranormal came out in the summer, and he’s been on a long A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper Live Tour.
7. New Yorker Donna Karan is the fashion designer behind the Donna Karan New York and DKNY labels. For nearly 34 years she’s given us vibrant and imaginative clothes that look great and yet are practical – stylish without appearing to be trying too hard. If only more designers could manage it.
8. Prince Charles. He might be a target for cheap hits (“talking to his plants”, for instance), but here is a man who clearly cares deeply about the state of health of the world and the state of health of its people.
History will come to value enormously the huge impact The Prince’s Trust has had on lives that need a helping hand – as it will the many other (less-high-profile) charitable organisations he’s been behind.
9. Stevie Nicks. The on-off Fleetwood Mac singer was, with on-off boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham, the engine room of the band – giving it a soft-rock punch that was somehow ethereal and gritty at the same time.
Has just embarked on Fleetwood Mac’s 50 dates-plus North American tour that ends next April.
10. His work isn’t really my cup of tea and his “job title” is long – fantasy, horror and sci-fi novelist and short-story writer; screenwriter and TV producer – but George RR Martin deserves a nod for taking the world by storm in late middle age. Well, a certain fanbase, anyway.
He’s the American author behind the series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire, which led to the US TV series Game of Thrones that started in 2011 and ends next year.
Just goes to show the millennials can’t corner the market on creativity and imagination…
Are the celebrities we mention in any way representative of “the average 70-year-old”?
“Everyone is individual, whatever age we are, and what is typical for one 70-year-old may not be typical for another,” says Jo Reeder, head of fundraising and marketing for Age UK Suffolk.
“Often, people of this age are still extremely active, working in many cases, certainly often volunteering, and live a full and active life, enjoying many of the things they always have. Sadly, though, this is not the case for all.
“We live in a predominantly rural county, with quite large areas of deprivation and isolation, which can cause additional issues and challenges for many older people.
“Coupled with the growing problem of loneliness, this can make living to an older age a difficult adjustment for many.”
What can we do to try to ensure we have an enjoyable eighth decade?
“The more we can share our experiences of ageing and what that means to a wider demographic, the more understanding we will have of what people need as they approach later life,” says Age UK Suffolk’s Jo Reeder.
“Obviously keeping well, both in mental and physical health, is vitally important; keeping active and engaging with your communities to make new friendship groups; try new activities, especially if circumstances have changed.
“As a society, we all have a responsibility to look out for each other, and we would hope to all live well in our later years, so I see it as investing in our own future and that of our families to help ensure a fully-inclusive society, where everyone’s needs, views and experiences matter.”
Other stars born in 1948 include
Samuel L Jackson, Billy Crystal, Ozzy Osborne, Steven Tyler, Kathy Bates, Jean Reno, John Carpenter, Grace Jones, Robert Plant, James Taylor, Al Gore, Cat Stevens.
And: Musician, record producer and visual artist Brian Eno, who was born in Suffolk at the Phyllis Memorial Hospital in Melton, near Woodbridge; went to St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, and studied at Ipswich Art School.
Founder member, in early 1970s, of group Roxy Music. Left after band’s second album.