Looking good at 70: Former Anglia TV presenter Christine Webber shares her secrets
- Credit: Gregg Brown
She hasn’t been a regular fixture on our screens for almost three decades but the years have been kind to former Anglia TV presenter Christine Webber, who really who really hasn’t changed very much since her time on the broadcaster’s flagship About Anglia programme.
These days Christine, who worked as an agony aunt and retrained as a psychotherapist after leaving Anglia, is also an author, whose most recent novel, It’s Who We Are, telling the story of five fifty-somethings, has just been published.
Christine, 70, admits that she finds mid-life women - and men - fascinating, which is presumably why she writes about so many of them (the central character in an earlier book, Who’d Have Thought It?, was also in her mid-50s).
“I think that nowadays most of us regard ourselves as being in mid-life well into what used to be termed old age,” she says. “We’re not old nowadays, are we? And I certainly do feel that this period – between about 50 and over-80 - is a fascinating one. But it’s far more turbulent and chaotic and challenging than we may have imagined when we were younger.
“Mostly, we’re still working, living life to the full, changing our circumstances if we feel we should – including having new relationships – because we have a confidence at our age that our mothers and grandmothers rarely had. It’s a transitional time. Not without its pain. But it’s exciting too.”
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So, if we want to embrace this new mid-life with a healthy body and positive outlook, we could do worse than to look to Christine - who took up ballet at the age of
63 - for inspiration.
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Here, she tells us more about her attitude to health and ageing...
What are your tips for keeping ‘young’ in mind and body?
We all have genetic good luck and bad luck. Some of the bad luck might be that you inherit a gene that’s likely to be very problematic. But the majority of us are likely to inherit less dramatic family traits that can be altered by making lifestyle changes. About 10 years ago, I went to a lecture about a concept called Compressed Morbidity. This is a way of living where you remain as vibrant and fit as possible for as long as possible, and then you get your final illness which is short-lived, and you expire fairly rapidly after you contract it. This means you don’t have a miserable, poorly old age, neither do you spend your life savings on residential care. Obviously, you can’t guarantee living and dying that way, but it made me look carefully at my lifestyle to try to avoid the kind of illnesses many of us get as we age. Naturally, there are conditions that come out of the blue but there are plenty we have a chance of avoiding if we’re prepared to look after ourselves properly. We all know the health messages – get regular exercise, keep your mind active, lose weight, don’t smoke, avoid drink excess alcohol, reduce consumption of saturated fats, and so on.
How much exercise do you do?
In a good week I get at least five hours of vigorous exercise – probably two or three ballet classes, plus a Body Balance or Pilates class, a brisk walk of a couple of miles or so, and maybe a visit to the gym to do some fast walking uphill on the treadmill, a bit of static cycling, some work with weights and machines like leg presses and the pec deck. I also do a lot of stretching. I’ve come to the conclusion that exercise is brilliant for the brain as well as the body – especially dance, as you have to process new information and translate it into how you move. I never exercised before I was 40 but I have come to realise that exercise comes in very many forms and there is something for everyone. I longed to do ballet as a child but my mother was very opposed to it. She made me learn the piano instead. But I just loved ballet and finally took my first class at the age of 63.
What about food?
Because of a family tendency towards heart disease and high cholesterol, I limit how much saturated fat I have. I also believe in eating foods that genuinely give you energy – not just temporary comfort. I try to eat less these days than I used to and am actually a stone lighter than during my Anglia career. I eat lots of fish, vegetables and fruit. Don’t deny yourself treats, but don’t go mad. And eat good quality, fresh food, and buy it locally.
What role do you think good relationships and friendships have in maintaining health?
Research suggests being in a close relationship is beneficial to health. But it really depends on the quality of the relationship. And most of us are going to have to face up to ill health or death in a partner, if we have one. The vital thing is to have a strong network of friends whom you see in person. It’s said that loneliness is as bad for our health as smoking.
What’s your attitude to ageing?
Ageing isn’t exactly a bundle of laughs, but the alternative isn’t so great. I know far too many people who died before they were old. So, I’m just going to get on with it and make the most of every day, wrinkles and all! I’m still driven to do well – at the moment my focus is on writing fiction – and I definitely think that it keeps us young to have aims, ambitions and projects on the go.
? It’s Who We Are is published by On Call and is available in bookshops across East Anglia, £7.99.