"I have always had a fascination as to why some people live to be a hundred years old and beyond, whereas the vast majority of us will have shuffled off our mortal coil a good twenty years earlier. Some say it's to do with what you eat, others say where you happen to live and many more say it's all down to how you live.
I once knew an old lady called Etta who became my mother substitute after my own mum had passed away. Etta lived to 94 years of life and never married. She put her longevity down to never having had the stress of marriage and motherhood; though this status is one she would have truly welcomed had her sweetheart not been killed during the Second World War. She also swore by keeping to her daily routine and never being out of bed after 10pm or still in it after 6am.
Conversely. the late Earl of Harewood (7th Earl, George Lascelles), with whom I was friends during the last fifteen years of his life, along with his wife the Countess, read from my books to Yorkshire schools on three occasions. This cousin to the monarch once told me that most aristocrats live lengthy lives because they rarely rise before noon and live the life of Riley when they do. This explanation seemed to be diametrically opposed to the 'early to bed and early to rise' philosophy that Etta espoused.
So it seems that there is little consensus as to how best to ensure getting a birthday card from Queen Elizabeth, unless of course you happen to be her first cousin like the Earl of Harewood and get one anyway, whatever your age!
My own views on old age come from quotes, books I've read, people I've known and experiences I've had. In my seventy three years to date, I believe that none are so old as those who have outgrown their youth. One should never consider oneself too old to live life to the full or too old to jump in puddles for the sheer hell of it, or pull faces at life. You will start to see the signs of old age creeping up on you when you stop getting the urge to throw another snowball. As Bernard Shaw remarked, 'You don't stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing.'
We all strive to be courageous, but we cannot develop courage by merely willing it. We develop courage by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity with a degree of positivity that dilutes its worse effects to manageable proportion. The beauty of the above woman in the photograph lies not in any facial mole, but is reflected in her soul. It is in the caring she gave her children, husband and family members throughout her life. It is in the passion of her simplest pleasures. Her face is richly marked with the lines of life which have naturally formed there by years of love and laughter, along with times of suffering and tears. It is beautiful! Her life is beautiful! She is beautiful!
For my part, ever since I was first informed three ago that I had a terminal illness, I have grown older more gracefully. And do you know the strangest thing of all? The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes and the sweeter all creatures, nature and all new experiences seem to me. So as the poet Robert Browning exhorted, 'Grow old with me. The best is yet to be!'" William Forde: May 31st, 2016.