Ageing With Attitude: The lure of learning keeps Maryl Streep on centre stage

Margaret Jennings pays tribute to three-time Oscar winner, actress Meryl Streep, who has managed to eschew the typical Hollywood lifestyle and to keep her family life private.

HANDS up who has a girl crush on Meryl Streep? If you are over 50, then you may have grown up with the three-time Oscar winning actress. You have admired her for her brilliance — watching her bring her chameleon-like talent to a huge variety of roles.

She can do no wrong. She is so acclaimed by the critics that she has more academy award nominations — 19, and counting — than any other actor in history.

But despite that dizzying stardom, Streep, who was 66 last June, has managed to keep her head on her shoulders, her feet on the ground, and her family life private.

She has also attained that magic combination of fame and family — unlike the washed up rocker mum she plays in her latest film, Ricki and the Flash, due in cinemas here on September 4.

Ageing With Attitude:The lure of learning keeps Maryl Streep on centre stage

Rock-guitarist Ricki Rendazzo is a mother who long ago abandoned her sensible husband and children to pursue stardom, which she never attains, but is called back to the fold years later when her daughter — played by Streep’s actual daughter, Mamie Gummer — is in crisis.

Watch out for the promotional posters of Streep pulling off the rock-star chic leathers and boots and remind yourself that only four years ago she got her third Oscar as Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady, if a reminder is needed of her scope.

It is her utter dedication and professionalism that keeps her very much in the limelight, winning the admiration of a host of younger fans since she took her first Oscar for Kramer v Kramer 36 years ago. 

She may be in her 60s but they are not asking ‘Meryl, who?’ Streep is always pushing the boundaries in challenging herself and in doing so, she is paving the way for other older actresses, in an industry which is famously youth dominated.

Earlier this year when actor Russell Crowe controversially complained about older women wanting to play younger parts, he quoted Streep as an example of someone who chose age-appropriate roles.

She responded by saying: “I agree with him. It’s good to live within the place that you are.” 

Ageing With Attitude:The lure of learning keeps Maryl Streep on centre stage

And what is that place? It would seem that her ability to combine her real-life ambitions and her willingness to take on artistic challenges, laughs in the face of Hollywood ageist bias.

In Ricki and the Flash, for instance the soundtrack and her singing is far removed from Mama Mia, a film that was also a new departure for her. But it was the lure of learning the guitar, a long-held goal, that was the icing on the cake. 

It’s reported that her fingers were calloused and bloodied from giving it her all on those strings. And that she got her first lesson from 69-year-old music legend Neil Young, no less.

Behind the scenes earlier this year, she used her own money to financially back a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40 — the ‘magic’ age at which it is claimed Hollywood reportedly sees female actors as too old. 

It is to be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers. Commentators have seen this as Streep taking a practical step towards influencing a shift away from the male-dominated Hollywood perspective on how older female actors are perceived.

But she did not make a song–and-dance about it. She seems to emerge and disappear from the limelight, in rhythm with the publicity machine around her films — and always seems intelligent, humorous and unfazed.

Ageing With Attitude:The lure of learning keeps Maryl Streep on centre stage

Married to sculptor Donald Gummer for 37 years, she does not fit into the Hollywood template and is a mum of four grown-up children pursuing their own creative dreams. Two of them are actresses Mamie, 32, and Grace, 29, while 36-year-old Henry, is a musician and 24-year-old Louisa is a model.

While it’s understandable why women would be awe-struck by Streep, it also emerged last year that US President Barack Obama was also smitten.

When awarding her the highest civilian award of the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, last November he professed she was “one of America’s leading ladies”.

“I love Meryl Streep,” he told the large gathering in the East room.

“Her husband knows I love her. Michelle knows I love her. There’s nothing they can do about it.”

Paying tribute to her acting he said: “She inhabits the characters so fully and compassionately — the greatest gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

Streep brings an honesty to the screen and it is that full enthusiastic engagement of herself with her craft, and apparently with her own personal life, as she ages, that makes her a true ageing icon of our time.

92-year-old yogi shares her secrets to happiness and longevity


Ageing With Attitude:The lure of learning keeps Maryl Streep on centre stage

Women in their 60s and 70s have sexual satisfaction levels similar to women in their 30s and 40s according to a study.

And six in 10 over 60, who are in committed relationships are sexually active. The US research, which involved women aged 28 to 84, focused on a national sample of women who answered an array of questions about sexuality in a questionnaire. 

They found that 62% of respondents reported being sexually active in the previous six months.

Study author Holly Thomas said the results

are consistent with previous research, which points to the value older women put on being sexually active.


Ageing With Attitude:The lure of learning keeps Maryl Streep on centre stage

A total 0f 280,000 Irish people aged 60 to 74 had never been online and only 3% of those in the 75-plus age group had used the web, according to the National Digital Strategy report published in 2013.

That figure has risen since, partially due to the efforts of Age Action, which has been encouraging older people to get clicking and has been running the Silver Surfer awards to celebrate those who do use technology.

Now the 2015 Silver Surfer award nominations are open, so people can nominate a friend, neighbour or relative aged 50-plus, who use technology for pleasure or as a way to enhance their quality of their life.

Nominations must be in by October 4 and winners will be announced on October 20 at an awards ceremony at The Helix Theatre, DCU, in Dublin.

Nominations can be made by calling Anne-Marie at 01-475 6989, or going to 


The long-tailed tit’s nest is an architectural marvel.Richard Collins: Altruism of the long-tailed tits or not

The flight that brought us home to Ireland after our seven months sojourn in the Canary Islands (half our stay intended, half not) was the most comfortable I’ve experienced in years. With a large plane almost entirely to yourself, you could again pretend you were somebody.Damien Enright: Wonderful to see the green, green grass of home

IRISH folklore is replete with stories of priests praying for fine weather to help farmers save their crops in wet summers. However, the opposite could soon be happening when divine powers may have to be invoked to provide rain. And not just for farmers.Donal Hickey: Praying for rain — in Ireland

Geography is often the defining factor for the destiny of an island. Those islands that lie close to the shore have often been snapped up by interests on the mainland and their morphology changed to something completely different.The Islands of Ireland: Tarbert morphed onto the mainland

More From The Irish Examiner