Beating age-old problems

Wade looks into the sags, wrinkles and stresses of coping with later life, and finds a heartening tenacity alongside some peoples' outright denial of the facts.

WATCHING Bus Pass Boob Jobs on TV last week was a salutary reminder of age, decay and mortality.

For anyone who didn't see the programme, this was a Channel 4 documentary following the fortunes of three pensioners who hoped to recapture the beauty and pleasure of youth through plastic surgery .

Hundreds of years ago people used to sculpt death's heads and skeletons with the legend: 'Paint an inch thick, to this shall ye come.' Today, we can take warning from the sight of the optimistic elderly spending thousands of pounds on new faces and bodies in an attempt to turn back the hands of time.

To give them their due, all three were unrelentingly cheerful in the face of encroaching decrepitude, but their efforts were obviously doomed.

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Tony, 70, said: “I'm not ready to be an old person yet.” He wanted to have his craggy face reshaped along youthful lines, but his heart wasn't strong enough and he had to settle for an eye lift under local anaesthetic. To cheer himself up, he had his silver eyebrows dyed black (“My God, it's Groucho Marx!”) and his forehead shot full of Botox (“I'm trying my hardest to raise my eyebrows - nothing's happening!”). On Tony's chubby, smiley face dominated by oversized tombstone teeth, the effect was disconcerting.

Sylvia, 68, was trying to recreate the film star good looks she displayed in forty year old photographs,. After rejections from five plastic surgeons, she found one who agreed to insert formidable breast implants and siphon off five litres of fat from her midriff. Next she planned a tummy tuck, and liposuction on her bottom and thighs so that she could go on the beach in a thong, never mind a bikini.

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Brenda, 65, wanted a breast reduction operation, wistfully recalling the 'bee sting' breasts of her slender youth. After speaking to a consultant, who gave her the common sense opinion that what she actually needed to do was lose a bit of weight all over her body, she sensibly accepted his advice and set about the task with gusto.

Poignantly , all three were filled with regret for lost loves as well as their past beauty. Tony spoke tearfully of the first of his marriages, and how he wished he had put more effort into sustaining it. Sylvia spoke darkly of “who you should have married, who you should NOT have married” and Brenda still suffered a bitter sense of injustice over the betrayal by her husband, who had left her some 13 years before for a younger woman.

Sad and misguided they may have been, for those of us coasting downhill at a rate of knots, it was oddly heartening to see these battered survivors, still snatching at the chance of a last whirl round the dance floor of life, a final surge of passion in the faltering heart. As they used to say, there's many a good tune played on an old fiddle - and be damned to the quality of the veneer!

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