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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 112 - Secret world of the pro-active pensioner

BRITAIN’S fifty-and-sixty-something males, it seems, are defying advancing years by taking care of their personal appearance and attending, not only classical concerts but also pop and rock events. Still wearing denim, they have, according to the market analysts, Mintel, the idealism of the 1960s and are, of course, concerned about ethical consumerism and their responsibilities to society.

They call themselves generation SYLO (Staying Younger Longer) and those not dancing the night away are doubtless partying till even dawn cracks, or engaging in other age-defying activities such as back-packing in fever-ridden, South American rain-forests, holidaying on shrinking Gulf Stream ice-floes, bungee-jumping from hang-gliders or butterfly farming in Chechnya.

As one who can remember when King Kong epitomised the best of American go-getting virtues, I say, "Enjoy yourselves; it’s earlier than you think", because, after SYLO, there is always PUPP (Patched-up Pill-poppers), a growing band of diehards of both sexes still able to perform the Exhibition Paso Doble without drip-feeds attached.

While not a PUPP member, I get invited to their events, and circulation-stimulating affairs they are, with the tonic wine flowing freely, the noise of charcoal health biscuits being crunched sounding like infantry marching on gravel, as well as the witty, informed talk that could include comments on the new, rucksack-ready, oxygen tents for short-of-breath hill-walkers and cheap flights to Poland on Air Linctus for the appendectomy of one’s dreams at St Walpurgis People’s Treatment Centre, Lodz.

AT A recent party, I felt at home among a selection of amiable pill-takers, medicine-imbibers and those who had arrived in luxury Zimmers. As I stood there, glass of tonic swamp water that gives me a clear eye, cold nose and a good coat, in my hand, I saw a sharp-as-a-vineger-crisp, 70-odd female giving me a "come-on" wink like a heliograph. "Barbara Bunstrode," she revealed, "Reader in Emetic Philology: on diuretics and anti-coagulants; left knee and right knuckles replaced." Very hip, but when I disclosed that I was a "gentleman journalist, on Syrup of Figs and All-Bran", her wink (a seductively-nervous tic) continued, but her body language indicated I was a pill she could not swallow.

Well, you accept the invitation and you take your choice of subjects that could include exchanging information on booking a fabulous colonic-irrigation holiday in Tunisia to cheap-as-chapattis’ rates for cataract cut-outs in Calcutta. There could be scandalised murmurs over an NHS shock-horror story of some patient being cured in mistake for someone else but PUPPs are generally brimful of joie-de-vivre.

At that party, tongues loosened by a cough linctus and creosote punch, they sounded like recently-released Trappist monks. I had a stimulating chat on Roman orthopaedic surgery techniques in Transalpine Gaul, with a double-hernia, 15-pills-a-day octogenarian, planning to fly a microlight across the Congo Republic and I enjoyed an exchange of views with a 75-summers, nose job, Caesarian section, bunions removed, Tetracycline-taking lady, on the place of the purgative in Victorian Scotland.

LIFE-ENHANCING literature for "oldies" is flooding the market. The following should be considered for pro-active pensioners’ bookshelves:

The Good Flu Guide, by Jeremy Trivett (Beta Books) £9.99. While the author blows hot-and-cold over his subject, this is an entertaining and informative romp on a common affliction. Pop-up pictures of virus variations and a joke section should stimulate sufferers’ recovery.

Limbo Dancing for Arthritics, by Dr Rama Gulag (Crutch & Cartilage Press) £15.50. This attempt to breathe new life into old bones is ambitious but not for those who cannot afford two osteo-paths and a fork-lift truck to pick them up after the exercises.

Otherwise Engaged, by Jeremy Stanchion (Loophole Publishing) £17.50, is another James Bond adaptation. Still active in his 80s, 007 rheumatically lurches, fully-equipped with collapsible alloy crutches, bullet-proof haemorrhoidal rubber ring, night-vision bi-focals and ephedrine inhaler-cum-automatic-pistol, on the track of an international cartel flooding the world with fake, dangerous senna pods.

Cities are evacuated, the planet reels and Bond, without batteries in his hearing aid is confronted, on an Istanbul train, by Ivanovka Nembutal, Ukrainian triple-heart-bypass spook, holding a sawn-off spatula in a very steady hand. "Bond gasped as the woman’s bronchitic chest rub made his senses reel. ‘Is this the end?’ he wondered, reaching for his anti-depressants ..."

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