When Her Majesty the Queen celebrates her 85th birthday on April 21, 2011, she may finally re-define Britain’s perception of what is “old”; it’s not 65 - it’s 93. But the question is who will have the guts to decline Her Majesty for insurance for her cars or foreign travel on age grounds, says over 50s lifestyle group Saga, one of the very few who’d quote for somebody of that age to drive a Land Rover - or for more than 30 days foreign travel a year.
“If the Queen was living in Buckingham Avenue rather than Buckingham Palace, then, despite her proven ability to match, or better world leaders half her age, home or away, she’d find it a bit tougher to get insurance to drive, or travel abroad. It’s all down to a perception of age and what is ‘old’,” said Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga.
“In the year the Queen was born, 1926, the definition of ‘old’ was effectively set in stone, and we became stuck with it.
“That definition of ‘old age’ has survived for generations: 1926 was the year the state pension age was set at 65, and established the perception that we’re officially very old and past-it at 65. At the time, around 60% of people did not live long enough to collect their state pension.
“But because of the setting of that milestone, our mindset today says 65 is old – as if every older person around us is an exception rather than the rule.
“In 1926, average life expectancy was 61 for women and just 57 for men, so the pension age was 14% beyond a man's average life expectancy. In 2011, life expectancy is 82 for women and 77 for men. 14% beyond that would be age 93 for women and 88 for men.
“So, by this new definition, our Queen may not yet be very 'old'. Indeed, around a fifth of people alive today will live to 100 - and there’s a very good chance that could include the Queen too, given her family’s famous longevity.
“But even people in their 90s and beyond embarrass younger generations with their wisdom and vitality.
“At 85, the Queen is a renowned wit, a handy Land Rover driver, has boundless energy both on public duty and in privately enjoying the great outdoors. But how many times do we meet hugely active older people and say, ‘you can’t be that old, surely?’ They should actually be considered the rule, not the exception.
“So when we celebrate Her Majesty's birthday, we should also celebrate a new thinking of ‘old age’.”
For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529