Every now and then TV goes on a binge of programming about or for older people. Unfortunately, the content about us mature types is invariably handled so cack-handedly that it presents an unnecessarily negative stereotype – but ordinary doesn’t pull in the viewers, does it.
So here we are again, a couple of faceless TV execs have delivered a double whammy of programming about seniors doing the things in life that they want to. Only this time they might have got it right. True, there is a bit of the stereotypical ‘look at the funny old people doing things they shouldn’t’ schtick, but on the whole, these are two heartwarming documentaries about the process of coming to terms with ageing.
Secrets of Growing Old – available on ITV Hub
Did you know that statistics point to the likelihood of at least one baby born this year reaching age 150? This ITV series considers what we think of as ‘old’ and how attitudes are changing. Maybe the attitudes of younger people are changing – for people of a certain age, we just shrug our shoulders and say ‘what’s new?’.
We’re bombarded with media messages that we can be as young as we feel, but in a very condescending ‘there, there Dear’ type way.
This series promises to unravel the extraordinary secrets of ageing – discovering for example that a staggering 80% of the way we age is down to how we choose to live our lives – so that you never view ‘growing old’ in the same way again.
For most of us, it’s not the quantity that matters, but the quality of our extra years. Take 83-year-old Dilys Price, who at age 50, when her joints began to ache, thought that proved the beginning of the end. Instead of giving in she turned daredevil and is now the world’s oldest skydiver.
Dilys recalls: “In my middle age I thought life was very difficult and hard. I remember when I was 50 thinking ‘Is this life? Is this the beginning of the end?’ My knees were stiffer, I didn’t feel very happy. Then I thought ‘If my knees hurt, I must live a life through my head’. Oddly enough, as I thought that, my knees got better.”
Of her first skydiving experience, Dilys remembers: “I was terrified, I could see the ground and was thinking ‘What a mistake. This is death’. It’s unnatural, you shouldn’t be doing it. Then the next moment I thought ‘Wow, I’m flying’ and it was wonderful.”
Dilys has now jumped over 1,100 times, saying: “I found my passion. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just Dilys doing whatever excites me. Now I’m the oldest woman in the world skydiving. It’s great.”
Secrets of Growing Old – Available on ITV Catchup until 1 July 2016
Seventy with a Six Pack – available on All4
Ordinarily this would have Channel 5 tattooed all over it, but in a rare show of populist indulgence, C4 follows a selection of bench-pressing Brits performing in the Seniors category at the World Bodybuilding Finals in Miami.
Among those hoping for success on the stage is 79-year-old Eric Dowie, he’s spent a lifetime competing in the sport, and after years of missing out on the title, in 2014 he finally beat former World Champion Jimmy Bennie to become Over-70s World Champion. But can he hold on to his title?
As the old saying goes: time waits for no man. Jimmy Bennie, the former champion’s life has been dominated by bodybuilding since the death of his wife and he has a gritty determination to regain his crown, but after suffering a cardiac arrest at his gym, his life must change: “There’s a certain strain on my body,” Jimmy admits. “And age is not on my side.”
However, dedication to the temple of the body isn’t everything as Roger demonstrates, the 76-year-old spurred on by his belly-dancing wife Joan, is the most pragmatic and grounded of the bunch – he’s going because he wants to and because he wants to experience something new.
Determined to succeed with the support of his right-hand-woman, Roger hopes to beat the other seniors and make it to the World Championships in Miami. With 60 seconds to showcase a year’s worth of work, will these OAPs hold their nerve?