This Much I Know About Age

It’s nearly ten years since I launched Look Fabulous Forever. I was 65 years old at the time and I believed, rightly, that my age was my biggest advantage as the face and voice of an online brand of makeup which would really suit older faces like mine.

Since then I have had a huge amount of engagement with the world of ageing both personally and professionally. I have met many hundreds of people and I have been listening, learning, reading and writing about what it feels like to be an older person living at this particular point in time. 

And all that time I have been getting older myself, so everything that I have learnt has become more and more relevant!

Let me share with you my five most important lessons:

1- People live longer, happier and more fulfilled lives in communities that accept and value the older generation. I know that I don’t live in such a benign place, so I have to work much harder to stay relevant and engaged in the world. I do so by reading widely, listening to podcasts, going to the cinema and theatre and by challenging myself both mentally and physically as much as I can.

2- It’s never too late. Age can become a really useful card to play as an excuse for not going somewhere or doing something, but I resist the temptation to play that card with every fibre of my being.

3- Your head is much more important than your body as you get older. It’s your head that makes decisions, sees opportunities rather than limitations, is open or closed to new learning or new directions. It’s your head that commits to an exercise regime or to choose healthy foods.

4- Be both realistic and pragmatic about the future. Denial is your worst enemy. Do your kids an enormous favour and get your affairs in order and then get your house in order. Once you have done that you can relax and get on with living your best life for as long as possible.

5- When you go out, put your best foot forward and hold your head up high. People will respond differently to you if you take the time and trouble to look your best. My personal presentation, which always includes a full face of LFF makeup, is part shield, part badge and part statement which says ‘I deserve your courtesy and respect’.

These five maxims are all about attitude and belief. I feel that they help me to stay positive, optimistic and hopeful and they form the background to my daily lived experience and the choices that I make. Now I’d like to share with you some very specific steps that I have taken over the past 10 years which I believe have greatly enhanced my chances of living well for as long as possible. I much prefer to be guided by science backed up by verifiable research in order to avoid any snake-oil salesmen peddling miracle cures which rarely work and are invariably expensive.

Over the past ten years I have found Dr. Michael Mosley (66) to be one of the very sources of information and advice which is often very specific, surprisingly easy to follow and relatively low cost. The only thing his suggestions require is a commitment to be actively engaged in staying as physically and mentally fit and healthy as possible, which is a concept that has become more attractive to me with every passing year. He has just completed a new series called ‘Stay Young’ which you can hear on BBC Sounds.

Here are Dr. Mosley’s latest five suggestions for optimal ageing:

1- Get Fit/ Stay Fit. I started to get serious about physical exercise aged 69 when I first met Lindsay Burrows and started twice weekly sessions with her as my personal trainer*. I also bought a pink exercise bike (Opti Magnetic Foldable bike currently on sale from Argos), and I’m proud to say that I still use it for at least 5 sessions every week. I cannot stress enough how much better I feel having worked with Lindsay for the past 6 years on my core strength, balance, flexibility and aerobic fitness.

Mosley has just shared some new research about the value of High Intensity Interval Training. This involves short bursts of really vigorous exercise (start with 40 seconds and gradually build up to 4 minutes), followed by rest for say, a minute or two, then another burst. Repeat the pattern at least 4 times. I have been doing this on my bike with 3 minutes of moderate pace followed by 2 minutes of going hell-for-leather and repeating 4 times (20 minutes in total). I’m finding it tough going but benefits include improvements to the immune system, heart health and mental sharpness.

2- Strength Training. I sat behind an elderly woman at the theatre last Saturday and at the interval she was unable to get up from her seat. She was eventually able to stand with the help of two young men who came to her rescue. Muscle fibres decrease and get weaker with age. If your arms or legs are too feeble to lift your body weight you cannot get up off the ground, out of a chair or a bath. Or a theatre seat.

Mosley recommends using weights to build strength in older muscles. In my sessions with Lindsay I use weights when doing things like squats and bicep or tricep curls all of which increases resistance and makes the muscles work harder. The good news is that muscles have a remarkable ability to respond to exercise in general and resistance training in particular. It really is never too late to start improving muscle tone. A recommended 30 - 60 minutes of strength training a week is all you need to give protection against heart disease and cancer, to improve sleep and reduce the dangerous build up of fat around the belly.

3- Gut Health. This is a new one for me but it makes a lot of sense because it’s all about reducing the impact of inflammation on our immune systems. Like me, you probably already have a very healthy intake of fruits and vegetables every day. Since Lindsay nagged me to cut down on sugar and salt, I have concentrated on getting as many colourful natural foods as possible into my daily diet. I regularly eat apples, tomatoes, peppers (red, green and yellow) broccoli, onions, garlic, spinach and salad greens which over time will have vastly improved my gut biome.  However, according to Mosley, this may not be enough to increase the all important diversity of bacteria in my gut to reduce harmful inflammation. Which is where fermented foods come in. So, just this week I have bought Kefir and am adding a couple of large spoonfuls to my daily helping of mango (see No 4). Other fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.

4- Reducing Wrinkles and Boosting Collagen. This is the holy grail for most of us and it may be as easy as eating half a mango every day! My fresh colourful fruit and vegetables are already helping my skin to look great, especially those containing carotenoids like bell peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe melon. carrots, kale, mangoes, oranges, spinach, tomatoes and watermelon. These foods are the chemical cousins of retinol which is often found in the best skincare (like LFF day and night moisturisers). Carotenoids offer protection against UV sun damage and can stimulate the production of both hyaluronic acid and collagen. A recent study of postmenopausal women showed that eating just half a mango every day improved the appearance of both existing and emerging wrinkles after just 3 months.


5- Stay Sharp. Scientists at Cambridge University are conducting studies into so-called ‘super-agers’ whose brain function is much younger than their chronological age. Findings probably won’t surprise you too much! Super-agers have retained more neural connections than average, despite the inevitable loss of brain cells caused by normal ageing. How? By constantly challenging themselves by learning new things. One study showed that if people aged between 60-85 learned three new things simultaneously, their brains were similar to those of people 30 years younger after just 3 months. So why not learn a new language, whilst taking up a new creative hobby (drawing, painting/knitting/dressmaking), whilst learning to juggle! That way several areas of your brain are being helped to create thousands of new neural connections.

In 2013, If you’d asked me what determines how well someone ages, I’d probably have replied ‘luck and genes’. I knew that my diet was woeful and that I didn’t do enough exercise, but I was rarely ill and still had loads of ‘get up and go’. The past ten years of involvement with LFF has exposed me to new ideas, new research and new approaches to my own health. 

The question which started to buzz around my head was not ‘how long will I live?’ but ‘how can I live well for as long as possible?’ None of us knows the answer to the first question, but the answer to the second question is much more in our own hands than we think.

Tricia x

*If you’d also like to do similar workouts with Lindsay Burrows see all our exercise videos here:

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