Tony wears a red fleece and smiles at the camera while standing in his garden

Tony's story

Tony Lush has lived his life ‘footloose and fancy-free’. He’s had a varied career and climbed, sailed and canoed his way around the world.

Now 81, he’s busy project managing the renovation of his new home in Tewksbury with the support of his wife Carol. But health issues have slowed Tony down in recent years and he feels frustrated by the medical ageism he’s experiencing. He tells us more.

My main problem with ageism is medicalisation.

Tony Lush realised early on in his career that he wasn’t a numbers man. He was working as a telecoms researcher and hating it. Even though he’d done a physics degree, making decisions based on putting numbers in boxes just wasn’t for him.

With the blessing of his wife Carol, Tony quit his job and went to teacher training college. At the same time, the family moved from the suburbs of west London to the wilds of the Forest of Dean. Tony enjoyed teaching, but eight years in the classroom was enough. 

“I thought, ‘I don’t want a job’,” says Tony. “’I just want to earn money the way I want to earn money’. So I decided to chuck everything in and do something different.”

Tony swapped his tie for a toolbelt and set up a building business. He renovated houses and eventually set up his own DIY training school. In the 1990s he was the founding chair of the Association of Self Builders. As a consultant with Do It All, Tony trained DIY store staff across the UK, shared his expertise on TV and radio and wrote DIY manuals and magazine columns – a job he loved.

A passion for adventure

When he wasn’t working and helping Carol bring up their two children, Tony threw himself into every outdoorsy activity you can think of.

“I've always been into everything I find exciting,” says Tony. “Car rallying, ultra-distance canoeing, sailing, scuba diving, climbing, cycling, long distance mountain walking. And in between all that I’ve managed to stay married – for 58 years!”

Tony says the word ‘retire’ isn’t in his vocabulary. He got a degree in Psychology and Sociology at the age of 63 and a Masters a few years later. He specialised in psychometric testing but it reminded him too much of his old job as a researcher. “I was just fitting people into boxes by numbers – not my style.”

A pat on the head

As he’s got older, Tony has increasingly felt that he’s being put in a box too. Complications from major knee surgery mean he now uses a mobility scooter. When he first went out and about in it, he immediately saw a change in the way people perceived him.

I was shopping in Lidl when a woman walked by and patted me on the head, he says. I didn’t know her from Eve. It was so surprising. I felt bemused.

In 2021, Tony and Carol made the tough decision, after 40 years, to leave their home in their beloved Forest of Dean and move to Tewksbury. “The hill and slopes of the Forest of Dean got the better of me,” says Tony. “I just couldn’t get mobile. We haven’t downsized – we’ve flattened out.”

Tony is out on his ‘M-Scoo’ most days, driving down Tewksbury high street and alongside the Avon canal. When he first moved to the town, he was aware of people making judgements about him based on his age and ability. He has gently but proactively challenged these misconceptions.

“I’ve found that smiling at people and chatting breaks things down quite pleasantly,” says Tony. “But it has to come from me, if that makes sense. And after 18 months here, I feel known and accepted.”

Medical hurdles

But while his community now sees Tony the individual, he believes the medical profession only sees his age.

“My main problem with ageism is medicalisation,” says Tony. “If I went to a restaurant, they wouldn’t give me a menu and say, ‘You’re over 65, so you can only have this, this and this. No, you can’t have that.’

“That’s what the medical world does to me. It insists I have particular medicines, and if I ask about the side effects and how I can get over them, I don’t get any response. Instead of 'You've got to 65, you should be taking something to keep your cholesterol in check', I’d like them to say, ‘Let’s see if we can work out something that’s not medical and not going to influence the rest of your life.’”

Tony says that being older is like a hurdle race. “You're dashing off down the track and you've got a nice straight bit, and then another hurdle presents itself,” he explains. “And most of those hurdles nowadays are presented by the effects, I think, of certain medication I've been asked to take.”

Despite the hurdles, Tony is still always looking for the next adventure. “I tend to wake up many mornings thinking, ‘Right! Now - what are we doing today?'”