Golden oldies keep on rockin’

IN normal life they would be drawing the pension but a growing band of older musicians are, as Neil (not so) Young, would say, ‘rockin’ in the free world’, shaking it all out on stage.

Golden oldies keep on rockin’

Young is one of eight top performers at Cork’s Live at the Marquee which starts next month, four are in their 60s and four are in their 70s.

Let’s take an age check, starting with the youngest: Robert Plant, 65; Dolly Parton, 68; Neil Young, 69; Christy Moore, 69; Brian Wilson, 72 and Bob Dylan, Tom Jones and Cliff Richard all 73.

The extraordinary fact is that this is not an extraordinary fact; we are becoming accustomed to the sight of musical icons from the ’60s and ’70s thrusting boldly forward in an industry designed for youth, creaking joints tested to the limit.

For the ageing population — a large percentage of them among their fan base — they are an inspiration; celebrity versions of what is possible as the decades add up, as well as a nostalgic musical link to a youth long gone, but not forgotten.

Their passion for their music is a reminder that we all need passion to remain vital as we age. And although some of the international stars have undoubtedly had a little help from their surgeons, personal trainers and stylists, their stamina has got to be admired.

Perhaps they have no choice. Dr Jan de Vries is a 57-year-old, self-described ‘minor old rocker’ who had to ‘abandon the faith’ to the academic life as a psychologist at Trinity College Dublin.

“What else can they do?” he says. “Most successful artists would tell you, you can only be an artist if you can’t do anything else. They have to do this. They get their energy from it psychologically if they are still pushing the boundaries and having novel experiences, research on ageing says this is a very positive thing for living longer.”

De Vries, who has researched stress management in performers, says old rockers might chill out more on stage as they age.

“One of the big risks when performing is we get over-activated as our autonomic nervous system is hard to control, but as we get older this is not the case, although the physical stamina is of course harder to maintain.”

Personal trainer David Sisk, who specialises in advising those over 50, has 70-something members at his Cork fitness centre who “can lift more weights than 30-year-olds,” because they are following a dedicated programme.

So what should the ‘old stagers’ be doing to last the pace in the marquee with a capacity audience of 5,000?

Sisk says they need to:

* Follow a nutrition programme, not one of those fad celebrity diets.

* Do regular core work, not just on their stomach, but on their lower and mid-back and backside and hips — for performance stamina, even if they aren’t jumping around stage.

* Do flexibility exercises.

* Do cardio workouts and strength training.

“The key to longevity is to increase muscle mass; that increases metabolism and bone density,” he says.

Of course that’s the physical take on longevity.

Dolly Parton, who keeps ‘nippin ’n’ tuckin’ and admits to ‘not being real big on exercise’ last week told Smashing Interviews magazine: “When I am on stage I love that feeling I get from the audience.”

It seems by plugging in to an appreciative live audience reassures those oldie performers (and their fans) they don’t have a ‘best before’ date. And why should they retire?

Bob Dylan — master of the so-called ‘Never Ending Tour’ — told Rolling Stone magazine: “These days people are lucky to have a job. Any job. So critics are uncomfortable with my working so much? Anybody with a trade can work as long as they want. A carpenter, an electrician. They don’t necessarily need to retire.”

That’s Bob for you — staying ‘Forever Young’!

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