A woman in a red leather jacket and sunglasses bright colours

Mindy's story

Mindy, 72, was born in Hull but has lived in Manchester since 1995. She is a very active volunteer in her community, particularly supporting the LGBT Foundation in Manchester. A fitness enthusiast all her life, Mindy is a skilled belly dance performer and loves the freedom of expression that she feels when she dances

Here Mindy explains how she consciously challenges perceptions around age, and how she wants to push for a world where a greater diversity of people is accepted, and that includes in older age.   

“Sometimes I feel 8 years old, sometimes 15!” says Mindy. “At a photoshoot for the Age Without Limits campaign I chose to be photographed sitting on the edge of a street kerb – because you never see older people sitting on a kerb! "

“I’ve come to realise that internal ageism is the biggest problem. There’s an ingrained set of behaviours that we consider ‘age appropriate’.  If you’re ok with yourself, you challenge others more on it or just move on. But sometimes I think you feel more vulnerable to it. There are times when I think to myself, is this what I’m supposed to be doing? 

“Last year I was at an international belly dancing event in Cairo, and I was at least ten years older than the next oldest dancer. It was amazing, but then one woman commented to me how nice it was to ‘see elder dancers’. And a voice inside me downgraded this compliment to ‘you’re good...for your age’, which isn’t a compliment at all! 

“On reflection perhaps that was more about me being sensitive to my age. But it’s ridiculous, you cannot do anything about it, like all the ‘isms’; you are born into it, in a place and time. 

“You should hope to get old! For me ‘age’ is an acronym – Already Got Experience! And my aim is to enjoy it, and keep being curious about the world, not let my world get smaller. 

 “A big passion in my life is belly dancing. It’s such a joyous thing to do: the cleavage, the sequins, the audience! It also teaches you how to inhabit a space, which I think is increasingly important as you age and you start to feel less seen. 

“I started belly-dancing when I was around 44. I’ve always loved dancing and had learnt ballet as a child. But unlike ballet, with belly dancing there isn’t a set standard, you can work to your abilities. I’m going to belly dance until I can’t stand! I’ll be happy if I can still express myself through music and movement. In fact, age is a benefit to dancing, I think, because you really know how to listen to the music and can connect to all the life experiences that the music conveys.  

 “Ageism is insidious. There’s no multibillion-pound industry devoted to creams to make your skin look older. That tells you about the pressure – more on women than men – to be a younger, untouched commodity. There’s so much pressure not to look your age, to be young is to be beautiful. For women, you especially become more invisible to men, and I feel that the status of men is so much more valued as they age, as opposed to women.  

“I try to think that I’ve got a secret superpower, as I age. There’s a stereotype of an older, stroppy, working-class northern woman, which suits me. I’ll say what I please, what I think. As you get older you care less and less about other people’s opinions, which you cannot control. Worrying about other’s thoughts is time wasted. 

“Now I’m retired, I only do what I want to do and I’m happy making my own contribution to society. I’m getting older and I want to be involved in making sure that this stage of life isn’t awful for people. For example, I’ve volunteered on a ‘Pride in Ageing’ project for the last five years at the LGBT Foundation. I’m lucky to be able to get involved in things that sounds interesting.  

“I am increasingly aware of the physical risks of getting old. As you get older you lose more muscle mass and your balance deteriorates, so you need to get on and do something active and keep your strength and coordination. Whatever physical ability you have, try and do it every day to keep moving ahead of the tide! Even if you can’t stand to dance, you can still dance from a chair, if you keep motivated." 

“I want to push for a world where a greater diversity of people is accepted, and that includes in older age. I am out and loud and I hope that it helps people who can’t be that open." 

“I’d like younger people to see older people as healthy, stroppy, vibrant...all the range of things that other ages are too. Then hopefully they’ll be less scared of getting old. I want them to know that there’s still fun to be had, still a future. As a generation they will be living longer, and you don’t want more years to be ill or miserable! 

“If everyone pushes for inclusion, acceptance and just keeps going, it will be better for everyone.”