Rose Rouse is 70-years old – but don’t you dare feel sorry for her, she says.
She’s all too aware that some people may think of her as ‘frail’, ‘delicate’ or ‘weak’ due to her age, but in her opinion, she’s anything but.
In fact, Rose can often be seen charging around London with feathers stuck haphazardly out her hair as she flits between poetry readings and dance classes.
She’s no fading wallflower, she adds – in fact, she’s growing every year.
‘There’s an internal ageism many people have,’ Rose tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Older people are told we can’t be sexy, we can’t be fearless, we can’t be creative. But we can be all those things and more. It’s stifling to be told otherwise.
‘I hate to hear things like ‘you look great for your age’ or ‘you look so young’, like it’s meant to be a compliment. We look our age – it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with getting older.
‘There’s a permanent assumption that if you reach the age of 70, you must be weak or frail somehow. You become ‘granny’, and that’s it.’
Rose, originally from West Yorkshire, is on a mission to help everyone to embrace aging ‘differently’.
She admits she got a head start due to her work as a freelance rock and roll journalist in London, where she witnessed the likes of Alannah Joy Currie and Grace Jones take a fist through glass ceilings and stand up to the conventions of society.
Inspired by their ‘feisty and powerful’ presence, she wanted to have the same impact in her own life.
In the 1970s, Rose spent time living in communes in America, called several European cities home – and squatted in a vicarage in Shepherd’s Bush.
‘I’m very much the punk and hippie generation, I’ve inhabited both those places,’ she explains.
‘I was working at the Institute of Contemporary Arts [a popular London cultural hub] when it hosted the Clash. It was the era of disruption.’
Rose, who now lives in Harlesden, is proud to lead a gaggle of men and women – she nicknames them the ‘punks of getting older’- into battle against ageing misconceptions.
Alongside friend Suzanne Noble, 62, the pair launched Advantages of Age, as a place to give the older generation encouragement for a new lease of life. A shared Facebook page brings together thousands to share their stories on the magic of maturing.
The idea for their initiative came about as Rose and Suzanne sipped prosecco in a hot tub with friends in 2016. As they downed their drinks, the group lamented at the ‘depressing’ future they had in the eyes of society.
‘It felt like we’d been told we aren’t meant to be having sex, aren’t employable anymore, and no longer creative,’ recalls Rose.
‘But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Suzanne is a can-do New Yorker. She’s a serial entrepreneur and a professional jazz singer.
‘I’m a journalist, a poet and a dancer, and I’ve made several films in the last few years. Both of us embody and personify what we believe in, so we are several “things” instead of one “thing”.
‘We’re just getting started,’ she adds.
So much so, Advantages of Age’s first ever awards ceremony is taking place this week, featuring categories such as Style King, Rock n Roll Artist and the most Glorious Getting Older Attitude.
It also tackles the realities of growing old – such as within the Most Innovative Place To Be Buried or Cremated category.
Although the winners are shrouded in mystery until the ceremony on Thursday, Rose reveals that one man has suggested his ashes be used to form a paint which, in turn, could create a piece of art.
‘We do talk about death’, explains Rose. ‘Death is taboo and we have a “death advocate” category as a bid to change that.
‘We talk about illnesses as well if we have them, but we don’t assume there will be some horrible decline at play. If we are ill, we know there are shared resources out there, we know that sometimes vulnerability is good to share and most importantly, we know we can talk about whatever’s going on.
‘Our community is all about that.’
Rose adds that she’s also eager to shrug off societal norms in all aspects of her life.
She practices a ‘living apart, together’ style relationship with her partner, Asanga, who lives North Wales. She may visit the former GP for weeks at a time before making the five-hour drive back to her home in London.
Asanga is an inspiration in his own right. In a far cry from his medical career, the 80-year-old is now a watercolour artist who does rock-climbing in his spare time.
Rose adds: ‘We dont believe that because we’re old we’re wise. We’re old and curious, and ever-learning.
‘I say I don’t want to be patronised due to the kind of “bless you” approach to older ladies. But I don’t get that often because I am pretty feisty.
‘I have wild hair with flowers sticking out and pretty “out there” outfits most days. Making life into an adventure makes me happy.
‘I’m simply aging differently and wouldn’t it be brilliant if others did the same.’
Sex, Death and Other Inspiring Stories: Advantages of Age is edited by Rose and features articles and essays by the contributors to Advantages of Age Facebook page. It includes writers Costa Prize 2020 winner Monique Roffey and Christopher Bland 2021 Award winner Michele Kirsch. Find out more here.
To find out more about Advantages of Age, click here
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
Share your views in the comments below.