It's never too late to be an advanced achiever

New year means a new you – and the age at which we are changing our lives is going up all the time. Jerome Taylor reports on the 'advanced achievers'

After the fireworks come the resolutions. The new year is that time in our lives when we think about fresh horizons and greener pastures. But those who might be tempted to state that change is a young person's game need to think again. With our maturing but increasingly healthy population, age should no longer be the thing that stops us trying out something new.

Take Srikumar Sen, a former boxing correspondent who, at the age of 81, has published his first work of fiction, a novel that has already won a literary award. Buoyed by the success of his debut, he has now at work on his second book.

Dame Joan Bakewell, the previous government's voice for elder people and a critic of society's lack of imagination when it comes to the country's ageing population, says retirement is no longer about finding a hobby to keep you occupied. It is an opportunity to grab a new lease of life. "It's enormously reinvigorating to find a new interest or activity as you grow older," she says. "It stops you slowing down and getting stuck in a routine. It keeps people young and it opens up new friendships, gives people skills they perhaps didn't know they had." She adds: "Things are much more flexible and they've got to get more so. Our country has got to harness the skills of older people. Employers have got to get more flexible, use the skills that are there and keep old people young."

History is smattered with figures who made a significant career change, or had a breakthrough moment in their life, at an age when society traditionally expected them to be winding down.

Peter Mark Roget could have rested on the laurels of a respectable scientific career when he was somewhat reluctantly forced to retire from the Royal Society. Instead he plunged into a project that he had spent his life thinking about but never had time to complete – the result of which was the first edition of the thesaurus bearing his name.

Creativity is inevitably something that can flourish in later years. Anna Moses, who is better known as "Grandma Moses", was one of North America's most celebrated 20th-century artists. But she only picked up a paintbrush at the age of 76.

Fast-forward five decades and a new generation of Grandma Moses are flourishing. Pop into one of the pubs on the London comedy circuit and you might come across Julie Kertesz who – in her mid-70s – took up comedy. In a newspaper interview earlier this year she said: "It was frightening at the beginning, but I decided I had to try something new every time. I have only been heckled once."

Such examples might sound like exceptions to the rule but, given Britain's changing demographics, successful septa, octa and nonagenarians will become increasingly common.

According to the latest census figures a total of 9.2 million people across England and Wales are over the age of 65, an increase of more than 10 per cent in the past decade. The geographical spread of retirement is also more varied. Ten years ago only a small number of areas had more than a fifth of the population aged over 65. Today, the entire South-west of England, almost all of Wales, half of East Anglia and the borders of Northern England all have at least a fifth of the population aged over 65. The number of people living to see their 100th birthday, meanwhile, is expected rise eightfold to more than 100,000 over the next 25 years.

Given these population trends Britain can either consign its ageing population to the backstage of life or tap into its talent. Those nearing retirement are already being proactive. A poll by Learn Direct found that 46 per cent of 50-pluses in the UK felt they are not too old to start a new career or fulfil lifetime job goals. So for those thinking they're too old to make a life-changing New Year's resolution, remember, there is no time like the present.

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

    Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

    Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat