Time on our hands

Time is one of the gifts of old age. Time to do things you never had time to do when you were working; opportunity to pursue interests and join projects that with a busy life you could only nod in favour of. You may lack the energy you once had but you now have plenty of space in the weekly diary that can be filled as you wish. There may be lots of responsibilities still around, but something quite new about life for older people is that when you wake up in a morning you can say, ‘what shall I do today?’

Young@Heart is a documentary film about a singing group of that name in the U.S.A. which dramatically provides an answer to such a question. I’ve been looking at the video of the film. The group is remarkable because the age of members ranges from the youngest at 73 and the oldest who at the time the film was made in 2006, was 93. Originally founded by residents of a care home in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1982, the group with Bob Cilman a younger, bossy but clearly talented conductor when the film was made, is celebrating its thirty years this October, with performances in four different venues.

They have been on the road many times over these years. Presumably when members die or leave the chorus, others are there to fill the gaps. In fact two of the chorus died as the film was being made, and whilst the news is greeted sadly but without fuss, the others affirm each other as they resume their commitment to the group, and sing their hearts out.

The music they sing is mostly rock and roll. A review of the film in The Guardian, which first introduced us to the group, claims that one man’s solo version of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You ‘was beautiful and frankly superior to the original’. Continuing the frankness, it can’t be argued that the quality of singing is of a very high standard, but what it lacks in finesse it gains in exuberance.

93 year old Eileen Hall is one of the lead singers in the film, and saunters through the show stopper, Clash’s ‘Should I should I go?’, as if this is what nonagenarians usually do. On the evidence of the film, audiences are as enthusiastic about the performances as the performers are, and if there is a hint of them being patronised, never mind.

Few of us who are growing old don’t go into show business as a late career! But something has to be done with this slab of time, so that we are not just marking time but celebrating our freedom.

Bryan