• Getting older gets bad press – Advantages of Age is a social enterprise that aims to change the narrative

  • Founders Rose Rouse and Suzanne Noble are hosting the first Advantages of Age awards ceremony in November 2023

This is a first for us. And we’ve been going for five years. Advantages of Age – advantagesofage.com – is a social enterprise dreamed up in a hot tub by a group of women (including me) between 46 and 64 seven years ago who were horrified by how they were being depicted in the media.

Worn out, unsexy, sagging, invisible, non-employable – nothing there to aspire to. So said the articles and headlines. Yet we all felt so alive, full of ideas for new projects, were all writing novels or poetry, finding new partners, laughing lots, going to tantric sex workshops. It was time to take on those anachronistic notions, evidently.

Suzanne Noble – serial entrepreneur and jazz/blues singer – and I, poet, dancer, journalist – now 62, and 70, decided it was time to drum up a tribe. As well as set up a website, a lively discursive FB page (where we discuss a lot more than whether we’re going to go grey), and create a series of Arts Council England-funded performances including the Taboo Club, mini-salons in the tub on everything from OUTrageous style, death and co-housing and a couple of films about death and dying both shot in Kensal Green cemetery

Our FB members – we are both men and women – often exchange vociferously about different aspects of growing older. Often, we haven’t retired. Sometimes because we can’t afford to. Often because we want to carry on working. Not many of us are going on cruises. We’re more likely to be driving camper vans up to Skye or buying a rural house in central Portugal. And that might be alone. We are getting older in the way that we want to. We’re doing it our way.

The Sunday Times’ Style magazine called us – ‘the punks of getting older’. And we are definitely all for doing ageing differently and supporting each other in this pursuit.

We are on a mission to find the alternatives away from Granny headlines (I wrote a piece for the Guardian about the travesty and ageism of these perpetual Granny and Grandpa references), to keep on trucking with our rock n’roll hearts, to retain our independence, to re-imagine and re-frame what ‘old’ can potentially mean. We are trying to make ‘old’ desirable rather than unbearable. We’re happy to call ourselves old and Olders.

Let’s banish the idea that the only desire of the old is to be young! We are weary of this ridiculous idea that ‘we look great for our age’ or ‘age is just a number’. We don’t want to be young, we are content to be interesting and old. Fierce and old. Creative and old. Engaged and old. Sexy and old. 

Meanwhile I commission lots of articles, often inspirational personal stories for the website. It is a joy to nudge people into their writing selves. To discuss death and everything around it. In both lyrical and practical ways. To show their wild sexy selves traveling in an estate car out in to the wilds of Britain, to show that we’re not all old and married and that it’s possible to live fulfilled lives as older women and men, older people are not all lonely, they also relish being alone. We discuss health and illness, members write about their own struggles and how they’ve managed challenging medical conditions. We’re not pretending that everything is hunky dory as we get older, we’re just approaching the changes as an unfolding rather than a decline, and sharing how we feel about it all. And laughing.

Suzanne and I had the idea for an Advantages of Age Awards ceremony a few years ago to celebrate people and organisations that are doing magnificent jobs on the pro-ageing front. And to celebrate and bring together our members too. We have twenty categories and they range from Style Queen and King to Pro-Ageing Not for Profit Organisation and from Rock n’roll Artist with the most Glorious Getting Older Attitude to the Most Innovative Suggestion for Where to be Buried or Cremated.

And then we put them into the FB group so that people could nominate their choices. Rock n’roll Artist with the most Glorious Getting Older Attitude, funnily enough, had huge amounts of nominations. Will it be Patti Smith or Keith Richards or Grace Jones? This week, a group of judges will gather to decide the winners. The shortlists came out last week and it was wonderful to witness the excited ripples across different communities. The Death Advocates for instance and the Wellness Changemakers (of which Welldoing's Louise Chunn is a nominee!).

As part of the judging process, I am reading the books by the four finalists in the Non-Fiction with a Pro-Ageing Message category, and Professor Rose Anne Kenny’s book Age Proof – the new science of living a longer and healthier life – is about how much we can bring about positive change by making certain lifestyle actions but also ‘This brings me to the important influence that language, media and attitudes of friends, family and society have on how we perceive ourselves and how challenging it can be to remain resilient in the face of negative stereotypes. If someone or something continually tell you that you are old, it is hard not to feel old.’ And then crucially – ‘Researchers from Yale University showed how quickly ageing perceptions can change an individual’s physiology’. Yes, positive attitudes to ageing can help us live longer and healthier.

Personally, I feel as though the Advantages of Age tribe provides me with the community and warmth and role models – we have members in their 80s who are still working as workshop leaders plus my partner, Asanga Anand who is still rock and indoor climbing. Most importantly, I know that I can go to the group and use it as a resource which is invaluable. And their comments cheer me up on a particularly dull or difficult day.

The Awards are a coming together of all these elements. Knowing there are other Oldsters out there who still have leather trousers or a flower in their hair – is a great help!

Please do join us at Hoxton Hall, London on Nov 23rd, here is the link for the tickets - https://advantagesofageawards.com/?fbclid=IwAR1UoYyy2wmItO3bPeY5TUBlp9Mn2s54qrKTcyoSs15zpbI0JB9sVUET13c

Our book Sex, Death and Other Inspiring Stories – the Advantages of Age handbook to ageing funkily will be out on Nov 23rd.

Further reading

Sex for over 60s: Rediscovering your sexuality

Why grandmothers matter

How reviewing your regrets can transform your life