I turned 64 this week, says Simon Kelner in the I newspaper. So naturally I’ve been thinking about the Beatles. The band were in their twenties when they recorded When I’m Sixty-Four, a cheerful song about growing old. The lyrics evoke content sexagenarians knitting by fires, pottering in gardens and visiting the Isle of Wight. To the young and famous singers, “64 must have seemed like an impossibly advanced age”. To me, it doesn’t seem old at all.
That’s partly because I still haven’t learnt to act my age (“and hope never to do so”), but it’s also because our culture insists we stay young. “I would imagine that, 50 years ago, people would be relatively content to go gentle into that good night: now, we have all manner of procedures to keep the ageing process at bay.” McCartney said recently that if he wrote the song now, he’d have to call it When I’m Ninety-Four. “In the modern world, that’s the age where gardening and knitting might suffice for excitement.” Still, some of his lyrics reassure me. One line says: “If I’d been out till quarter to three/Would you lock the door?” Phew. “The idea that, even within a landscape of domestic niceties, there exists the possibility to grow old disgracefully is something that should give us all hope.”
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