Age is in our talents, mind and creativity - and at heart I am still 22

Age is just a number, Valerie Slaughter says, and is shaped by our hobbies, creativity and interests

Age is just a number, Valerie Slaughter says, and is shaped by our hobbies, creativity and interests. File photo. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Looking through some old photographs recently (during the January declutter of cupboards and drawers) not only stirred up some lovely memories, but, inevitably with some mixed feelings, made me ponder on bygone days.

(One has a tendency to do this more after reaching a certain age, I believe.)

It was also a stark reminder of the ageing process, how quickly the years pass and how different everyone looked then, the changing hairstyles and fashions only adding to this.

I remember in my teens, how tiresome and embarrassing it was, always being asked my age when I was out with friends for a drink. I was over 18! How I longed to look (and be) older, 22 was the age I yearned for.

However, as time galloped on, my first awakening to the fact that I wasn't as young as I felt in my head came while giving a statement to a police officer after I had apprehended a shoplifter at my place of work.

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Usually, the person taking down the statement would ask 'are you over 21?' and I would reply 'yes' (a tiny bit pleased to have been asked!).

But one particular day, the officer (somewhat audaciously, I felt) ticked that box without even asking and the realisation that I was, in fact, not only growing older but apparently looking it too finally hit me.

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In spite of this, I have always thought of age as just a number. I didn't feel particularly different when reaching 40, though 50 did seem to be a sobering milestone, but as the years have passed, apart from feeling infinitely grateful to still be clocking them up, I still feel young at heart and that, I believe, is the secret.

Among the many quotes about age is one which reads: Ageing is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength (Betty Friedan).

There are many new things to learn and new experiences to undertake, if one is fortunate to be in good health.

I would never have known the joys of painting, pottery or singing in a choir, if I hadn't tried something new and I pray that I never lose my joie de vivre, or love of the simple things in life.

I have friends of all ages and am happy to be in the company of any of them. We have much to learn from those older than ourselves but we can still be open to learn from the young too, especially their knowledge of technology.

(In the 1980s I thought a floppy disk was one of those plastic records that came free in newspapers!)

Though it does make me smile nowadays when young people, who are in their teens or early 20s, say 'back in the day' when referring to something that happened in their life, but a few years ago.

Among my acquaintances are an 86 year old who abseils down buildings and a young man aged 19 who gives up his time to organise concerts, in order to raise funds for charities. Age has not mattered nor hindered either in their causes.

The Hollywood Star, Sophia Loren, whose natural beauty belies her 84 years once said: 'There is a fountain of youth, it is in your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.'

So yes, the hair may be grey (well purple, actually), the eyesight fading and the hearing diminishing but in my head (and heart) I am still 22.

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