Series exploring concerns about ageing. Fiona Phillips explores the loneliness epidemic, and Dr Rangan Chatterjee looks into why sleep could be the key to good health.
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-Everything has an impact on your life...
-Whatever your age.
'From the type of house we live in...'
Ooh, this looks nice.
Yes, it's been completely renovated throughout.
To how much money we have to spend.
Your wage ends up being like a normal working wage, which is good.
What we put in our bodies...
I don't think I've ever been "fat" fat, but I have put weight on.
'To the secrets of our genetic make-up...'
You are going to live to be 140.
That'll do, I'll take everything I can get!
So, finding out about all those things and more could help you
-Or slow down the ageing process just a little.
We've tracked down the very best tips and advice for holding back the years.
And now, with the help of our team,
we're going to pass them on to you,
to show you how to have the time of your life...
Whenever that may be.
Hello, and welcome to the show that wants you to be bolder...
About growing older!
Here's what we have for you today.
It's been described as a national epidemic in old age,
but help might be just a simple call away.
Fiona investigates how loneliness is being tackled in Lancashire.
When Paddy died, I thought that my life had ended at that point.
I wanted it to end at that point, I didn't want to go on without him.
It's almost like you've got a new life now, going forward.
I have, yes, yes.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee, our resident GP,
is here to tell you how sleep is one of the great pillars when it comes
to holding back the years.
If I haven't had enough sleep, then I just want to cry,
but if I can have five hours' sleep, then I'm more positive.
-I just deal with it.
-And Nicki Chapman finds out the upside when it
comes to downsizing your home.
I'm looking at it in wonder, because it is so peaceful, so tranquil,
and then in the back of the head, something's saying to me,
"that's an awful lot of work".
That's why we moved!
Now, you may have seen that the Government has recently appointed
its first-ever Minister for Loneliness.
It's in recognition of what many people see as a national emergency.
But making sure our grandparents, parents or even ourselves aren't
lonely is something that can't just be left to those at the top.
Well, thankfully, one part of the country is leading the way when it
comes to people power, so we gave them a visit.
It's estimated that in excess of 1 million people over the age of 65
in the UK are chronically lonely.
There's even a loneliness map of Britain, compiled from recent
statistics, which shows that the
most socially isolated place in the entire country is here -
And one lady who knows what it's like to live with loneliness is
Christine Marley from Blackpool.
Christine, just tell me what the last five and a half years have been
like, since your Paddy died.
-He was the love of your life, wasn't he?
-Oh, God, yeah,
he was my soul mate.
And I thought at first it was just the grief that was getting to me.
-But it was like a real pain.
I had a good family and I had friends, but there was long,
long hours when I was completely on my own.
The last five years, I haven't had to give up fighting that feeling.
Nothing replaces that one person in your life.
Paddy used to hold my hand, and he'd never let me go anywhere without
holding me by the hand. Made me feel so safe, you know?
So I felt unsafe and scared and frightened and vulnerable.
Having friends and family in her life,
Christine may have been luckier than most, but inevitably
you have to cope with stretches of time when you're on your own.
How long could you go without seeing anyone?
At the beginning, it wasn't too bad.
I was getting visitors regularly, in a way,
but...but then I'd have long periods where there'd be,
I'd not see anybody. I'd have the television on all day.
It helps with the loneliness sometimes.
That's right. Well, it's those hours after tea were the worst.
From about five, six o'clock till you go to bed at night, and, I mean,
there have been times when I've been watching the clock and thinking,
"What's a decent time to go to bed?"
because I just wanted to draw a line under the day.
It's estimated half of people aged 75 and over live alone,
with many saying they can go days, even weeks
without speaking to anyone at all.
People need to understand what it's like.
You can be stood next to an old lady at the bus stop and you'll roll your
eyes and think, "Oh, God, she's told me her life story while
"I've been stood here, let me get away".
But that old lady's probably going home and not seeing anybody for
And you're the only contact she's had for a week.
And it's so true. Christine wasn't alone in being alone.
She's since come out the other side, though,
and joined a social group, Just Good Friends,
where otherwise isolated people can get together.
Well, the atmosphere when we walked in was amazing.
-I thought, "Oh, my goodness, is this Good Friends?!"
You know, it was an incredible, real buzz about the place.
-What does it mean to you?
-By coming to somewhere like this,
you can talk to people who are just in the same boat as you,
who feel exactly the same way as you,
so they understand, almost without you having to say anything,
how you're feeling. You know, it's a lot of people who are lonely,
all getting together and helping each other.
And you can't feel lonely while you've got all this going on.
No. As soon as you walk through that door, you don't feel lonely.
And with a quarter of all people in the local area living alone,
groups like this have become vital to helping people like Christine
But, you know, from where you were when your husband died,
and after, and all that loneliness that you felt, to where you are now,
do you think that this has been a real life-saver for you?
Oh, it was. Well, it was a trigger,
because when Paddy died, I thought that my life had ended at that
point. I wanted it to end at that point.
I didn't want to go on without him.
It's almost like you've got a new life, now, going forward.
I have, yes, yes.
And suddenly I'd walk into the room, and within seconds they'd have their
arms around me and a cup of tea in my hand and there was somebody there
to listen to me.
He'd be so pleased to see you sitting here today, talking nonstop,
-by the way!
Well, you know, it was so good to see Christine
looking as proud as Punch in the middle of everyone there today,
and to see just the general atmosphere in the room,
full of happiness and looking forward, rather than looking back.
Of course, not everyone's as comfortable with being as sociable
as Christine and the gang at Just Good Friends.
In fact, it's thought that for two fifths of all older people
the television is their main company.
So, what's the answer for them?
I've come along to The Silver Line,
a 24-hour phone service that allows anyone who's feeling lonely to call
-for a chat.
-No problem. You know what? We all do, don't we?
-No, I can understand that.
-How many have you read this week?
Meeting me today is chief executive, Sophie Andrews.
What do you do here at Silver Line?
We've got the 24-hour free confidential helpline,
which is where we are here today.
People ring all day and all night with all different problems,
sometimes for information about local services, sometimes to report abuse.
Sometimes they want a chat and just want to have a listening ear.
What unites many of the people who call is the fact that they have
no-one else to turn to.
We have received over 1.5 million calls, and those calls
come from all over the UK.
So, the age range from 55 up, but most people who call us are over 75.
It's not necessarily about living on your own.
Some people, it would be their worst nightmare to live with someone else,
but it's more about if you've lost a partner, if you've lost a pet,
if you've lost your driving licence, if you've lost your mobility.
If there's been some sort of significant change,
that can really tip things for people.
There's a large body of medical evidence now which suggests that
people who are lonely are more at risk of depression,
high blood pressure, and also have lower resistance to disease.
Particularly for over 75s, it's a real issue -
more dangerous than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
There's huge health impacts. It's probably a stiff upper lip
generation, so a whole generation of people who don't want to be
a burden, don't want to bother people.
We want to hear from you. We're here, so please ring us.
With almost a quarter of over-75-year-olds who live alone
going days without human contact, what is it we can all do to help?
So, where are you going to go for your shopping?
So, the problem is growing, what can we do about it?
It's simple human connections.
So, how often do we ever look out for our neighbours,
talk to people in the street? We're all in such a rush,
and what we're doing at The Silver Line is very simple.
People will call up for a chat, quite a lot of laughter here,
as well, call up and tell us a few jokes.
But it's very, very simple what we do here. We offer that ear 24 hours.
And today I got the chance to offer an ear myself,
and, with the person's permission, share the call with you.
-Hello, how are you?
'Not too bad, thank you.'
Good. So, what's day-to-day life for you like now, Betty?
-'Lonely, but I have the garden.'
-How lonely do you get?
What makes you pick up the phone to Silver Line?
'I lost my husband ten years ago, and sometimes, you know, at
'sort of one o'clock in the morning, I haven't been to sleep.
'I have got a family, but I don't like to worry them.'
Yeah, I think a lot of people feel that way,
but that's why Silver Line's there, because everyone's busy now,
aren't they? And I know how difficult it must be when you're on
your own and, you know, there's a long day ahead sometimes, isn't there?
'Well, thank you for talking to me. It's lovely to hear from you.'
-Yeah, you too. All the very best.
You can see how much Silver Line means to Betty.
Bless her, she seems a cheerful soul when she's talking to you,
but she clearly misses her husband, who's been gone for ten years now,
and her night-times don't sound
ideal, either, and that's when she phones.
For many people, loneliness comes about not just with the death of
a spouse, but when children move far away or they lose touch with grandkids,
which is why the final initiative I want to introduce you to here in Lancashire is so inspirational.
-What have you done?
-I'm going to carry on doing the butterfly.
Anybody want this pretty pink?
It features the Girl Guides,
who now have the chance to win a special badge for helping combat
loneliness. And at the Boat Lane Court accommodation in Manchester,
the girls are doing exactly that, and they're loving it!
-You just dab your finger down...
-And then, like that...
It seems as though you're enjoying yourself.
Yeah, we all come here and we get to do all crafts and stuff.
How much do you like coming here?
It's just, like, really nice, seeing all the old people, like,
-making all friends.
-And have you learned anything from them?
Yeah, I've learnt how good they are at art.
You can do a lot when you're older and when you're younger.
Even when you're older, you can have a lot of fun.
And by the looks of things,
it's not only the children having fun around here.
You look as though you're enjoying yourself, Mike?
I'm having a ball, actually.
-Some of the things they're saying, you go, "Wow, a totally different view!"
Yeah. So you're learning as much from them as they are from you,
-We've been playing noughts and crosses and I've
told them how to win at the game instead of getting beaten.
-I hope you haven't told them how to cheat.
-No, I never cheat!
If you're feeling lonely, then there are ways of getting help.
Sometimes it's just a call away,
so check the phone book or maybe go online for a number.
Registered volunteers of all ages are out there if you want to get in
touch with them. And remember, you're actually not alone -
there are people feeling the same, and they're up for a chat, too,
-maybe a really, really long one.
You'll have heard the old saying, "Life begins at 40".
Well, our in-house GP thinks it
might actually begin with 40 winks, too.
Easier said than done, sometimes.
Here's Dr Rangan Chatterjee on why a lack of proper sleep
is unfortunately uniting the generations.
As night falls, it should be time to rest,
but sleep researchers believe that we're getting 1-2 hours less sleep
a night than we did 60 years ago, and that's causing us major issues.
In fact, I believe that sleep is the single most undervalued component
of our health, no matter what your age,
and sleep deprivation has now reached epidemic levels.
It's a problem on two levels -
as both a cause of health issues as we get older,
increasing our risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes,
problems with our immune system and even obesity,
but it can also be a symptom of other underlying conditions,
I've come to the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey,
where I'm meeting 70-year-old Beverly Stratford,
who is concerned about her own sleep habits.
Beverley, just how bad is your sleep?
If I got to sleep by about 11:45, I invariably wake up two hours later,
absolutely wide awake.
And then sometimes, if I've had a really bad night,
I'll fall asleep about 7:30 and wake up at 8:30 feeling quite groggy.
How does this disturbed sleep and then fatigue in the mornings affect
your quality of life?
Um, I would think it does
make my next day very difficult.
It makes me sluggish, and it's very hard to push myself, really,
to do the things I really want to do.
So, it's pretty clear that Beverley isn't getting as much sleep as she'd
like, but what's the cause? She's got her own theory.
My first husband died, and I think everything stemmed from that.
So, all the things I have to deal with, the problems,
if the car breaks down,
it's down to me, and if I haven't had enough sleep,
then I just want to cry.
But if I can have five hours' sleep, then I'm more positive,
I just deal with it.
So, what's going on with Beverley?
Well, there's a neat bit of kit that can help us find out.
It's called a PSG, or polysomnography,
and it monitors the brainwaves as we sleep,
giving us a detailed picture of
whether there's something more serious causing the disruption.
In the meantime, I want to find out a bit more about the whole topic,
and, in particular, whether there's any links between sleep problems and
-The Sleep Centre's Doctor Derk-Jan Dijk is at
the cutting edge of this research.
Can you tell me about some of the research you've done here and looked
at the association between sleep and ageing?
In general, older people have less deep slow-wave sleep.
Also, healthy older people wake up more frequently than younger people.
Then if we look very carefully at some of the brainwaves during sleep,
we can find that those brainwaves also change with ageing.
MUSIC: Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics
So, proven science, but there are
some real misconceptions about what helps you get a good night's sleep.
Many people think that actually having alcohol before bed
helps them sleep. Is this true?
Well, it certainly will help them to fall asleep,
but after a couple of hours, when the initial effects wear off,
it will start disrupting sleep.
That disruptive effect of sleep is much more severe in older people.
Is it the same with caffeine?
Yes, there are data to show that indeed caffeine also has more,
a stronger effect in older people compared to younger people.
And there is one sleep dilemma that is now affecting us for the first
time in our species' history, and it's all down to technology.
15 years ago or so, for many of us,
there was good demarcation between work life and home life,
whereas now, with our phones and e-mails,
we're all doing it seven days a week.
I agree. That's a major change, and there is very little doubt that this
will have an impact also on our sleep quality.
I think that what we now know is that sleep is important.
Sufficient sleep is important for physical health,
sufficient sleep is important for mental health.
Sufficient sleep is important for aspects of brain function.
Generally, an adult up to the age of 65 needs eight or nine hours' sleep.
-Beyond 65, the time reduces to seven or eight hours a night.
-ALARM CLOCK BEEPS
So, with this in mind, let's find out how Beverley slept last night.
After a quick cuppa to wake her up, it's time to see the results.
Giuseppe Atzori is the senior clinical research officer.
So, Giuseppe, you've been monitoring Beverley's sleep through the night.
Can you tell me what you've found?
So, from this black line to there is the period it took for you
to fall asleep. 29 minutes.
Now, that is acceptable, in terms of Beverley's age.
The older we become,
the less efficiently we sleep.
You estimate that you woke up about ten times during the night.
You woke up a little bit more than that.
It's about 20-odd times.
There are areas of awake here, for example,
that are probably about 60 seconds,
and we worked it out at around about an hour, an hour and a half.
And what sort of levels would you like to see there?
So, anything between 10-20 minutes.
-If we take into consideration your age and your sex,
-you haven't done too badly.
-No, that's very, very interesting.
So, based upon what we're seeing here, what you've found,
it doesn't appear from this data that there's any primary sleep
disorder that might explain Beverley's sleep problems.
-I certainly think it's really good that we've managed to,
you know, by and large, rule that out.
In my own experience of seeing patients who are struggling with
their sleep, most times I find that there's something going on in
their lifestyle that they don't realise is negatively impacting their ability to sleep,
-and it's probably time to focus on those things with a bit more detail.
It gives you a positive start in sorting...
trying to sort other things out.
And that's exactly what we're going to do.
So, as night approaches, I'm going to visit Beverley at home.
-Hello, do come in.
-Hi, how are you doing?
So, how are you feeling about everything?
Very good, very interesting.
So, I thought I'd come and have a look around, if that's OK, and try
and figure out what I might be able to suggest to help you sleep.
And one thing jumps straight out at me.
So, how much tea do you drink?
Erm, four to five cups a day, ish.
-And what time's the last one?
I try not to drink anything after seven o'clock.
My rule of thumb is that most people who come see me in the practice who
can't sleep, I recommend that they try and stop at a hard 12 o'clock, midday.
Gosh! That's a long time without tea!
-So, is this where you spend your evenings?
-Yes, it is.
I see the telly's on, there's a laptop.
-Is that a reader?
-Yes, I've got lots of personal things to do and
-lots of e-mails.
-These devices, they emit blue light.
And blue light, really, out in nature,
-you only really get it in the earlier part of the day.
We're not really designed to get blue light in the evenings,
and if you're looking at, you know, this e-reader,
or this laptop in the evening,
the blue light can often reduce levels of a hormone called
melatonin, and melatonin helps you sleep.
Now, the most important place - the bedroom.
I can see you've got, next to your bed here, I can see you've got a
-phone. Does this glow in the night?
-Yes, it does.
-Does it? That could be
-having an impact on your sleep, I'm afraid.
-So, really we'd
encourage you to try and make this room as dark as possible.
So, these look pretty good, these blackout curtains.
-Do they block out all the light?
-Uh, not quite.
If it's a very bright moon, then there's nothing I can do with it.
Yeah, there's quite a lot of light, isn't there, coming out?
-What you could do, actually, it's a bit more work, but you can
actually get some blackout blinds fitted here, that you just
pull down, so you really get a nice, snug fit against the windows.
So, plenty that can be done. Time to sit down with Beverley.
So, Beverley, I think I've got a pretty good idea now of what's going on here,
and I've got some tips that I think are going to help you get better sleep.
The first thing I'd say is caffeine, OK?
Try and cut it back, so you're only having it in the morning.
Second tip, try and get outside in the morning, if you can.
Exposing ourselves to natural light really helps us sleep in the
evening. Third thing, I think you need a bedtime routine.
So, some people like an alarm in the evening to say,
"OK, now it's time to wind down for bed."
The fourth one is what I call a "no tech 90",
switching off all modern technology for around 90 minutes before bed.
And the final tip is, make your bedroom as dark as you can.
-Right, yes, I can do that.
I've seen these little, simple tips help transform the sleep in my
patients, and I'm pretty sure that, if you can stick to quite a few of
-those ones, I think you will be sleeping a lot better, pretty quickly.
If you don't wake up feeling refreshed in the morning,
it can be a pretty good indication that there's something wrong with
either the amount or the quality of your sleep,
but you'll be pleased to hear that it's pretty simple to improve this.
And, after following these tips,
Beverley reports experiencing a real difference
in the quality of her sleep.
All right, time to get quizzical.
Just look at these clips and work out when they all took place.
Yeah, and the question is simple: What was the year that was?
So, here's how the game works.
We're going to give you a few key events that all happened in the
space of a year, but which year?
And here's why you should play along, by the way.
Psychologists have said that nostalgia can promote a sense of
wellbeing and vitality in us all,
so this really could help you hold back the years.
MUSIC: Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
-What do we want?
-When do we want it?
There's quite a crowd gathered outside here, and the neighbours
have been extremely tolerant of the comings and goings
of the international press, leaning over their gardens.
In fact, next door, they've been taking in bunches of flowers.
MUSIC: Chicken Man by Alan Hawkshaw
And we'll bring you the answer at the end of the show.
Now, then, when it comes to getting older, size definitely matters -
the size of your house, that is -
which is why many people choose to move to a smaller home.
But doing that can not only be a logistical nightmare,
it's also very pricey, possibly, and emotionally draining.
Nicki Chapman has been to Hampshire for us
to meet the ultimate downsizers, for tips on how to do it properly.
According to the latest stats,
Britain is on the verge of a property revolution,
as nearly 6 million of us consider downsizing our lives.
And it makes sense. Your children have left home,
and you're rattling around in a house with empty bedrooms,
so you decide to move to somewhere smaller
that leaves you better off financially,
plus it's an awful lot easier to look after.
For most of us, of course,
this might involve moving from a suburban semi to a bungalow,
or a busy city street to the peaceful surrounds of the seaside.
For a certain section of society, however,
downsizing is a super-sized affair.
Today, I'm going to be hanging out in their world,
hoping to pick up some top tips we can all use.
Six months ago, Anthea Marr and her
husband, Brian, lived here in Surrey,
in this stunning nine-bedroom country manor house,
until they decided to pack up, ship out and hand over the keys.
She's showing me around what they've left behind, from the outside in.
This was an office and a playroom in general.
-We used to have a billiard table in here.
And the kitchen, which is nice and big.
-Going into a little breakfast room here.
Wonderful parties in that room there.
Since you sold it, how many times have you been back?
-This is the first, really.
-Is it painful?
Definitely. We had, you know, what, 25 years here, blissfully happy,
-I'm looking at it in wonder, because it is so peaceful,
so tranquil, and then in the back of my head, something's saying to me,
-"That's an awful lot of work."
-That's why we moved!
It was much easier to downsize to something we could manage without
So, what does downsizing look like for those who can afford it?
Well, it meant the moving from something massive
to something...just big.
Let's have a nosy.
This is the sitting room, and as you can see, it's lovely and light.
-Aren't we lucky?
-Goodness, this is a wonderful room, isn't it?
-Very homely, but you have that space.
Wonderful light. When the sun is out, there's beautiful light in here.
This is the dining room - small, but you can get six in here.
And what about the furniture? Because it works beautifully in here.
-Yes, this is all mine.
-All from the big house?
All from the big house. We didn't buy anything for here at all.
There's a bedroom in here.
Ah, so you actually have a second reception room here?
Yes, we wanted a spare room so we could have friends to stay,
or the children, and it's got an en-suite in there.
-Oh, which is perfect.
-And... It is perfect. And also, as we get older,
we may prefer not to sleep upstairs.
Anthea and her husband, Brian, chose to buy a lifetime occupancy
their home, rather than purchase it outright.
It's a low-stress arrangement,
and a service charge takes care of cleaning,
gardening and the utility bills.
But even though their new home is beautiful,
the move here hasn't been easy.
So, when you made that decision to downsize, was it liberating,
or was it actually heartbreaking, doing it?
-Mmm, pretty heartbreaking.
-But has it been the right decision, do you think?
-I think so, yes.
My husband had been quite ill for some time, and I had a major
operation, and found things very, very tough afterwards.
Were you surprised how difficult it was, once you'd made that decision,
to physically make the move?
The packing, the deciding what you're going to sell,
what you're going to keep?
-Oh, yes, we got... The divorce lawyers nearly came.
Oh, don't be mean!
But it's not just leaving your home that most people find difficult
when it comes to downsizing.
It's having to get rid of all the stuff they've accumulated over the
years, when they find they've nowhere to put it,
and this is as true for the haves as it is for those who have a little less.
We had some beautiful Beijing plates,
which my father brought back from China.
But, very reluctantly, we sent them to auction and we made a lot of
money on it, but it was terribly hard.
-We love them.
-Was it quite exciting, though,
once you'd decided to get rid of them, to see the prices going up or not?
-Did you keep thinking...
-I was surprised, terribly surprised, yes.
-And we kept getting
these notes saying that the plate had gone up.
I thought, "That's a lot."
Incredibly, the price reached £300 per plate.
Of course, if you have a lot of potentially valuable things, then
you might need someone to help you shift them, and for the ultimate
downsizers, there's help at hand.
Thomas Plant is an auctioneer who has found that business is booming.
Now, Thomas, as a successful auctioneer,
how important for your business is the downsizing market?
-Oh, downsizing is massive.
-It really is, yes.
When I first started in the business, many moons ago,
we used to deal in three Ds - Death, Divorce and Destitution.
-Yeah. But there's a fourth thing, a bigger D, and that's downsizing.
It's an absolutely huge market.
Everything from furniture to toys to vinyl to old hi-fi...
-So, it really varies.
Does it come as a surprise to people, how much it's all worth?
Generally, you go around and say, "Well, that's worth £50.
"That might be worth £100. That might be worth 300."
And they're all little figures.
Actually, when they all add up, they make a huge difference.
And when you're an ultimate downsizer, everything you don't auction off,
you'll want to arrive in your new home in one piece,
and that's where Amanda Fyfe and Susan Griffiths come in.
They recognised that handling the practicalities of downsizing was
a business opportunity, and now they specialise in Senior Moves -
for the more discerning downsizer who prefers others to do the heavy lifting.
So, once someone's made the big decision to downsize,
what advice do you start off with?
-Deep breath, that's number one, wasn't it?
Deep breath. I would split it into three. You need to decide where you
are going to go, you need to decide what's going to fit into your
new home, you need to decide,
therefore, when you know what's going to fit,
you know what you can dispose of.
If you're used to having a four-bedroom home, it's very
difficult to suddenly go to two bedrooms, isn't it?
So, you're dealing with the emotions there, and the memories of that
-That's where people can become quite frightened
and overwhelmed by the whole process,
because they just don't know where to start.
Downsizing needs to be done with the head more than the heart, and it was
Amanda and Susan who helped Anthea and Brian make their move.
This is for Anthea's house.
So, we take their floor plans and then measure their furniture and
then plan it. And we sit with them and they'll go,
"Oh, can we have the sofa this way?" All our clients are always in
control, so it's their choice. Once we've got that, then we know
it'll fit and everything else they don't have, we know then has got to
be disposed of.
So, if someone wanted to, they literally could sell their house,
you go off and move them into the new one, and they just turn up,
-open the door and walk straight in.
-That's our ideal, actually.
They go and have a lovely day and a lovely lunch,
and we'll look after the removers,
and then they come in and they've got a lovely home.
The bed will be made, the TV will be connected, kitchen unpacked.
And then they can start their life.
Now, sometimes, ultimate downsizers don't want to go smaller,
they want to go somewhere even bigger
but which they can share, and that's where this place comes in.
Welcome to Hawthorn Lodge retirement community, where t'ai chi under the
chandeliers is part of the daily routine.
MUSIC: Keep Fit by George Formby
# Keep fit, skip on your toes
# That's it, each movement shows
# Your bit of muscle grows
# Whatever you do, keep fit. #
Were you nervous coming here, making that big decision?
Yes. A little bit.
But it was made so simple for me, really, when I reflect back.
So, does anybody here wish they'd done it sooner?
Yes. Maybe three or four years sooner.
Although downsizing may not be easy, change can be positive.
Here you've all decided to downsize,
but you're all living within a community, as well.
-Was that important?
I think the greatest thing about that is that we have our
independence in our own apartment,
but if ever you walk out here, there's somebody having coffee
-and you can talk and...
-Everybody's story is different,
everybody's experience is different as well, isn't it?
-But no regrets?
-Absolutely none. None at all.
-Lots of fun to be had.
-Lots of fun to be had.
Well said. Well, you certainly look happy here.
Thank you all very much.
Now, obviously, this has been a bit of fun, but, you know,
I think there are lessons for all of us.
Here are the top tips I've picked up today...
One - be practical.
There's no point hanging around just for the emotional value of
a house if you can't physically make it work.
Two - there's money to be made, and there could be people out there who
want to buy your stuff.
And three - you're not alone.
So, get help. More hands make light work.
And finally, I just want to say goodbye to Anthea and Brian,
and I've bought them a gift.
Because you made such a success of finding a new home and
-downsizing, at great expense...
..we have done our very own plate to the two of you.
-Thank you very much.
-Look at that, Brian.
-Not quite from Beijing like the originals, but...
-Oh, no, but I'm thrilled to bits.
-..for the next phase in your lives.
-Yes, absolutely thrilled.
-And Bertie's as well.
-And Bertie. Look, Bertie!
And we wish all three the very best.
We end today's programme by returning to the topic of loneliness,
or rather the measures being taken to combat it for all ages.
This is the story of the podcast pals.
Ah, a nice cup of tea.
You really can't beat it, no matter what age you are.
And it's the timeless nature of the good old British cuppa that has
become the basis for a brand-new podcast.
That's a radio show on the internet, to you and me.
Chris Heath from Peterborough is the mastermind behind this podcast.
I wanted to do a podcast, and it was going to be a TV review thing, like
lots of people probably are doing already.
And so I needed to make sure the microphones all worked, so I sat,
I was at my nan's house, and I sat her down and said,
"I'll just interview you, just to make sure the microphone works,"
and she said, well, "I don't know what to say."
I said, "Well, let's just talk about your life."
And so we did. And an hour and a half later, we were still talking.
It suddenly hit me, this is really good if you get out there and talk
to people, everyone's got a fascinating life.
Chris set his sights on chatting to the nation's gran and grandads,
but he soon realised that it could have an extra dimension.
I wanted to focus on the loneliness of older people.
I think, like anyone, I've had spells of loneliness, too.
And actually, you realise, if it's bad for me at this stage in my life,
what must it be like after 50 years of being with the same person and
then suddenly losing them?
And as a way of combating my own loneliness at the time,
I kind of threw myself at the podcast. It gave me something useful
and healthy, and the great thing is I've now got a kind of a queue,
almost like a waiting list of people waiting to be interviewed.
People love reminiscing. Their, kind of, eyes mist over and they'll just
let everything out and tell you everything.
Chris is off on his travels to
record the latest edition of his podcast with 85-year-old
Tommy Walsh from Manchester.
Tommy Walsh, welcome to Two Cups Of Tea, the podcast.
Take me back to the beginning.
What was it like for the early Tommy Walsh?
I'm the youngest of nine children,
and I was brought up - and it's unbelievable, this, but it's true -
nine children in a one-up and one-down house with
a cold water tap in the yard.
Now, Chris, Two Cups Of Tea is a lovely intergenerational thing,
-And that doesn't go on enough in society, does it?
It really doesn't, sadly. You'll get elderly people,
"I don't understand the computer, my grandson does it," all that.
But what I find now, and it is... There's more and more people are...
-..literate, that's the word.
So, this sort of thing is available because more and more people are
using the internet, which is great.
Yeah. Do people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, listen to your podcasts
or... Who's the audience?
I assumed it was people my age or maybe a bit younger who listened to
podcasts in the main, but Tommy has got the internet in the corner of
his room and so many, I found so many nanas who've got iPads and are
completely hooked up to the internet,
so, everyone is kind of listening to it.
And it's really gratifying,
the messages and stuff that I've been getting back.
The experience of meeting the likes
of Tommy has left Chris with a theory.
The one thing I've found over the 15 or 16 people I've interviewed so far
is there's no such thing as an ordinary life.
Everyone out there has a story to tell, if you get out there and talk
to people and listen to it.
And Chris has found his fair share of interesting characters.
When I'm talking to all these people, hearing their life stories,
they say, "Oh, you don't want to ask me, I haven't had a very interesting life, really."
And then it'll turn out that the same person who says they haven't
had an interesting life was the last person to see Tony Hancock alive
before he died, or they were in Alan Bennett's gang at school,
-was a guy I interviewed.
-Someone who met Vincent Price...
-Yeah, who spent a day in Sydney with Vincent Price!
-That's it, yeah.
And had to interview a naked Muhammad Ali in his hotel room
in the '60s!
Bernard Manning worked with your sister?
Yeah, Nellie. Bernard and I became quite close friends,
cos I knew him in his early years, when he wasn't quite so famous.
Would you believe it?
And I, at that time, I used to do a bit of chirping, as they call it.
A bit of singing. But he used to say to me,
"Why don't you do semi-pro singing and I said, "No, I can't really do
"that, I'm serving an apprenticeship,
"you know, I can't just chuck it."
-Then I thought about it, so I spoke to the old fella.
"You're going to stay there until you're 21 and then you can do what
"you want," that sort of thing. And, actually, it was good advice.
Although the idea for Two Cups Of Tea was originally a chance for
Chris to prove his theory that there is no such thing as an ordinary
life, the podcast soon got the attention of The Campaign To End Loneliness.
Laura, from the organisation, saw it as a real opportunity.
What Chris is doing with these podcasts, most importantly, I think,
is debunking the myth that older people are boring, quiet,
happy to sit in the corner of a room.
And they've got these rich experiences that are going to make
you laugh, might make you cry,
and will totally demystify the idea that later life and older age is
something to be forgotten or ignored.
There are many contributing factors to loneliness,
one of them being that, whilst in many countries, families live
together with all the generations under one roof,
the same is not true here in the UK.
There are a whole range of
things that are happening in society that are marginalising older people.
Everything from media perception of age, but more than that,
we're used to now moving away from our hometowns,
and moving far away, and we've started to move towards
a habit, I suppose,
and a way of thinking about later life as being something that
can be helped and supported through our older relatives living in
care homes or residential homes.
So, what help and support can podcasts such as Chris's offer?
It's really important for people of
all ages to interact with each other.
It just gives us that in to say, you know, "Let's listen to this podcast together."
So, anyone who wants to make those small moments of connection,
a bit like the way Chris has showcased,
to start those conversations with people who are potentially lonely,
or who just want to tell their story,
we'll be running a major campaign in April 2018.
If you want to be part of that, sign up by going onto our website
and we'll keep you with us on every step of that exciting journey,
making loneliness everyone's business.
And helping with loneliness is definitely something Tommy appreciates.
Even though I'm active,
I get out and I turn up at all sorts of coffee mornings and that sort of thing,
which helped, it's so nice, and this is what I urge people to do,
just be polite, mate. Just give us ten minutes.
"How are you, Tommy? How's your day going, Tommy?
"What are you doing tomorrow, Tommy?"
Great conversation is what, from being with you, I can see is what you're very good at.
It's what you need in a day, isn't it? You need to be speaking and communicating with people.
You do, indeed. Loneliness is mainly in the evening.
And even a telephone call, a ten-minute call, it's surprising how it bucks you up, sort of thing.
-Do they all talk as much as Tommy, Chris?
Most of them, much less. LAUGHTER
But, you know, luckily, I've got a very long tape.
And when all the talking's done, back at home,
Chris edits and uploads this latest edition.
So, Tommy joins the rest of his podcast pals,
but who are some of his favourites on there?
Take it away, Chris.
At number three, we've got 89-year-old Joe, who enjoyed the
bright lights of the Manchester cabaret circuit from a tender age.
At number two, it's 83-year-old Felix. Raised in Spanish Harlem,
New York, he eventually moved to the
United Kingdom and became a judge at Crufts. Woof-woof!
And, at number one, it's 95-year-old Jessie Denby,
who manned the anti-aircraft guns in the Second World War.
So, listening to her could be your finest hour.
Back to you, Fiona.
And if you'd like to hear Jessie and more, you can listen to Chris's
But what, in the end,
has been the main lesson that Chris has learned from all of this?
It's the easiest thing in the world to make a massive difference in
In terms of loneliness, this isn't, I mean, you know,
there's other problems in the world that are much harder to solve.
But not this one.
You go out and find the people on your street, who you know live
alone, and who you know might need someone to talk to,
just do it one house at a time. That's how you make a difference.
There's all these amazing people out there
who we're not talking to, who we should be.
Actually, the one thing I have learned more than anything else is
that old people make the best tea in the world.
And we've just got time to tell you the answer to our
"What was the year that was?" archive quiz. Fiona...
It was 1978.
The year that Evita opened in London's West End.
That marvellous musical. Don't cry for us, though.
-We'll be back same time tomorrow.
MUSIC: Don't Cry For Me Argentina by Julie Covington
# Don't cry for me, Argentina
# The truth is I never left you
# All through my wild days my mad existence
# I kept my promise don't keep your distance... #
Everything has an impact on how well we live, whatever our age - from the type of house we live in to how much money we've got to spend, what we put in our bodies and the secrets of our genetic make-up. So finding out about all those things - and more - could help you mature brilliantly. Or slow down the ageing process, just a little. We've tracked down the very best tips and advice for holding back the years. And now, with the help of our team, we're going to pass them on to you, to show you how to have the time of your life, whenever that may be.
Hosted by Bill Turnbull, Fiona Phillips and Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Holding Back the Years is a lifestyle magazine looking at how to stay well, live longer and be healthy - whatever age you are.
In this episode, Fiona Phillips asks what we are doing about the loneliness epidemic in this country, and Dr Rangan Chatterjee looks into why sleep could be the key to good health.