Why the Oscars show age is not a number but a celebration, says Christa Ackroyd

I have on my wall a painting by the wonderful Sowerby Bridge artist Angela Smyth. It is of a quirky, rather round, yet obviously flamboyant female with the words In Praise of Older Women emblazoned across it. I actually bought it 20 odd years ago because I liked it rather than resembled it.

And now I have become one it’s significance is not lost on me. I am that woman. What is more there is nothing wrong in admitting it. Or better still celebrating it.

So it was a joy to me that after last year’s slap debacle, this year’s Oscars carried with them a reminder to all of us of a certain age that the best really is yet to come if we embrace it.

And more importantly live it. Unapologetically.

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Christa AckroydChrista Ackroyd
Christa Ackroyd

Easier said than done perhaps in today’s Instagramable world, which often appears to celebrate only youth, when even the television and radio bosses appear to be chasing an audience considerably younger than we are, leaving us feeling irrelevant and inconsequential if we let them.

Well we are not. Not if we believe it.

And if you don’t let us take a moment to reflect that every single winner of this year’s acting categories was someone over the age of 50, most of them in their sixties. Not only that but every single one of them was a first time nominee. And what a message that sends out to all of us. Anything is possible at any age.

Indeed age was something of a theme running through this year’s Oscar’s, both in the build up and the ceremony, culminating in Michelle Yeoh’s call to arms to every one of us who has ever felt a teensy weensy bit over the hill when she said: “Ladies don’t let anyone tell you that you are past your prime.” And she is right. Because guess what, we are not. Far from it.

Let us be honest, when we were teenagers getting older was something we never even considered. And why should we it was a long way off.

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I remember with all the arrogance of youth thinking my teachers were positively ancient when in truth the vast majority were probably in their thirties or forties.

It was an era when women not only played the part but dressed the part too.

Looking back at photographs of my mum by the time she was forty out went any attempt at fashion and in came tweed skirts, twin sets and sensible shoes. But then who am I to say she was wrong?

Now we can wear what we like at any age. Mutton dressed as lamb is a phrase the younger generation probably haven’t even heard of let alone utter. And if Helen Mirren can wear her hair down her back because she wants to, things have certainly taken a turn for the better.

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But mum I am with you on one thing…sensible shoes. The thought of putting on a pair of high heels ever again is positively crippling. Give me flats and trainers any day. Because like it or not we do turn into our mothers in some respects at least.

And nothing could more perfectly illustrated that fact than Jamie Lee Curtis (another first time Academy Award winner at 64) and her decision to turn down a seat at the nominees’ Academy Awards dinner because it was way past her bedtime. Oh Jamie I not only hear you I have become you.

My friend and I have often laughed at the fact that what we did once is not only an anathema to us now, it’s downright impossible.

There was a time when both of us wouldn’t even consider getting ready to go out until well into the evening when now if we are not back home by 10pm we consider it a late night. We eat during the day, prefer a good lunch to a late supper, tickets for matinees to see our favourite shows and go to the cinema at tea time at the latest. All the things we laughed at our mothers for doing, especially mine, when tea was on the table at 5pm and dinner was something we ate at lunchtime rounded off with supper of a couple of crackers if you were still hungry. Well dear readers that is my life now. And do you know something it feels okay. In fact it feels kind of free.

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All my working life has been based on getting home late and snatching food when I could. I would skip breakfast because I was probably still full from my evening meal the night before which I never ate before 8pm. I would think nothing of booking a table at a restaurant for nine o’clock in the evening, and late night curries were a thing of beauty. Now I couldn’t think of anything worse. I am with Jamie here. When she said she couldn’t possibly be out eating at a time when she was normally at home in her pyjamas I let out a shout of ‘yes! Me too.’ And I love her for it. No longer do I have to pretend a night in front of the TV is a sign of getting on a bit. It’s the new rock ’n’ roll. What’s more we’ve damn well earned it.

I exaggerate of course. I am still the last one to leave a party, but only if it’s a good one which usually involves a sing song. And preferably one which started at a sensible time, that is mid afternoon. I can still kick it with the best of them but I prefer not to, unless I am truly having a great time.

If not I leave saying I must get to bed. And if any of my favourite bands or comedians take up Ms Curtis’s advice and introduce matinees to their tours that would be just great too. And I would be first in the queue.

I get up earlier and go to bed earlier because it makes me feel better.

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For the first time in my life my schedule is my own. I no longer eat late because then I can’t sleep and I know sleep is good for me. Intermittent fasting whereby you finish eating by 7pm is not just a craze but now a lifestyle.

And do you know what for the first time in my life it is my decision. That is the advantage of being semi-retired.

Age is not a number it’s a triumphant celebration that we have made it thus far.

At one time we would have been written off as dull and irrelevant, now we can make plans to do whatever we like, when we like. And that is a gift. Next week I am going on a girlie trip to Spain and Morocco with a friend in celebration of her sixtieth birthday.

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Oh and by the way she is a gorgeous and glamorous as she ever was. What’s more we’ll have just as much fun as we ever did in our twenties. And when did we plan it? We didn’t. We booked it yesterday because our time is finally our own.

But I guarantee you one thing we will be in bed by 11pm. Or will we? Who knows. And that dear readers is the joy of reaching what we once thought of as old age.

The choice to live our lives as we want to is hard won and hard fought for ... so let us embrace it. As my granny used to say.. being old (or should I say older) is far better than the alternative.