I Work For...Lady Sally Greengross - The age of the ageing

Maggie Holmes is PA to Lady Sally Greengross, Director General of Age Concern England

I've worked for Sally for 10 years and my relationship with her is that of a friend as well as a colleague. Initially, I was rather apprehensive at the prospect of working for a woman. I felt that men seem to be more understanding of women employees and since I am quite strong willed I felt that I could clash with a female boss. But Sally and I clicked; my colleagues even comment on how unusual it is to see such a bond. A few months after I joined she was helping me move my son into his halls of residence.

Since the With Respect For Old Age report by the Royal Commission was published, there have been constant requests for interviews with Sally. We've also had many members of the public ringing in, particularly in response to the report's suggestion that the older people shouldn't have to sell their houses in order to pay for nursing care - which upsets people terribly. The system is unfair: whereas cancer and coronaries qualify for free health care, people with Alzheimer's, which is associated with ageing, are still means tested. It makes me angry to see that people who have done a lot for their country are now being neglected.

One of the aims of Age Concern is to campaign for improvement in the quality of life for the elderly. This is a busy year for us: not only do we run the secretariat for the UN Year of Older People but we are also co-ordinating the Millennium Debate of the Age, an ongoing forum in which people discuss how they see themselves, their work and their lifestyles in 50 years' time. It's a good way of making people aware of the ageing issue. To me, the most important thing to realise is that we are all ageing from the day we are born. Although I used to visit old people when at school and college, I hadn't had any direct experience of looking after an elderly relative.

People will more willingly support children than the elderly, on the grounds that old people have already had a good innings but, having worked here, I feel that age is immaterial. We are all living longer and are going to have to get used to living in a much older society. The old are an untapped resource in terms of life and experience - they can be mentors for younger people, for example. Of course, some older people might resent being grouped together. My mum, for example, who is in her seventies, lives on her own but, after experiencing an OAPs club, said she wouldn't go back because the other people were too old.

I would like people to take more notice of the elderly, particularly since they will be in the same situation one day. I think attitudes will have to change. When a relative gets old and infirm people tend not to want to know. I hope this will change. We have a number of celebrities, including Stephanie Cole and Richard Wilson, who believe in what we do and are prepared to help out. Both my son and my mother have done odd bits of work for Age Concern: my mother volunteers in a nearby shop and my son has chosen a job which involves care of the elderly.

I'm aware that I must look toward my own future and make sure that I have got my retirement sorted. I've also learnt that healthy ageing is very important and that one needs to keep active. Mind you, looking after Sally takes care of that aspect.

Sally is a great role model. People look up to her for, at 63, she's beyond the official retirement age yet busier than ever before and so fun and enthusiastic. She says that I run her life and that she can't cope when I am away, even if it's just for two hours. She's so busy that I sometimes threaten to send a cardboard cut-out of her to some of her appointments. I sometimes get calls from organisations where she's due to speak wailing "the event is beginning in five minutes and she's not here" but she always makes it in the nick of time. She rarely writes her speeches, preferring to ad-lib. Her husband, who is equally busy, relies on me to tell him where Sally is. I meet his secretary, Kathy, once a month for lunch and we tease them that we're off to talk about them.

I am devoted to Sally, but it's a give-and-take relationship. For example, when my son was playing in a big football match and had left his boots behind at my house, she couriered the shoes round to him. She's been with Age Concern for over 20 years and obviously has designs on retiring one day because she's already said that she would like me to remain working with her. Of course I gripe and groan when a day is going badly, but since I've been here so long I can't really be fed up, can I?

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore