Words of Wisdom....with Gloria Hunniford
Gloria Hunniford (83) has been in show business since she was just seven years of age, either singing or broadcasting in a hugely successful career that now spans more than 75 years. A wonderful example of positive ageing, Gloria took time out of her busy broadcasting schedule for a special 'words of wisdom' interview.
A true broadcasting legend, Gloria was the first woman to be offered her own chat show on BBC Radio 2 and went on to become a household name across the UK hosting awarding winning TV series like Sunday Sunday and Gloria Live. She is still working in TV and has no intention of slowing down, preferring as she says herself to keep busy, doing the job he loves. As part of our Positive Ageing Month campaign Gloria shares her thoughts with us about getting older;
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on Rip Off Britain. We started the show after the first big financial breakdown 16 years ago and we’re still going strong, in fact it’s never been more relevant, because of the cost-of-living crisis and higher energy prices. We do about 50 shows every year and we’re live again all this week from London on BBC One.
The benefit of the three of us being of a certain age, means that we've been around the block a bit, suffered a bit and earned our badges if you like of reliability and credibility. That's why I think it works so well. You've got to be believable giving information on a consumer programme. I also do Loose Women every other week and still do The One Show periodically along with Morning Live appearances depending on my other commitments.
I take the odd day off, but that's about it. The thing is that I WANT to do it. You wouldn't be bothered doing it at my age unless you really wanted to. I like it because it keeps the ‘old grey’ matter ticking over, I learn new things and meet new people every day.
October is Positive Ageing Month, what would you say is the most positive thing/s about older?
The most positive thing I think is trying to keep your health, because I judge everything by energy. I work on my energy because I want to have enough energy to do whatever it is I want to do, whether that's work or play or holidays, whatever it happens to be.
I think another important thing to work on is to keep positive. I try not to think about the age I am, because really once you’re past the big zero in any level then you tend to forget about it and get on with your life. I've always been a positive person and I've always tried to see the upside of everything.
I understand that a lot of people really enjoy their retirement and look forward to it. It just depends on the type of person you are and the job you’re doing. If I was doing a very boring job, I probably couldn't wait to retire but because I do an interesting job, it keeps me stimulated.
But October has a double-edged sword for me, as it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month and of course the worst thing that's happened to me was losing my gorgeous daughter Caron. You can’t be positive about losing somebody, but you can be positive about how you remember them and the good that we do in Caron’s name through the foundation we set up. It gives me a lot of strength every time I write a cheque because I know that we're doing it in Karen's name and we're helping cancer charities all over the country, which is a very positive thing and that’s part of my healing. You just have to be positive in order to cope with life. So positively for me is probably number one on the list.
What would you say are the most difficult things about growing older?
The most difficult part I suppose is just praying that you don't have any severe medical things, because you obviously want to keep your energy and strength up. So anything that comes in the way of that medically, that's always a problem. I’ve always tried to be proactive about looking after my health and have taken supplements and vitamins since my teens and I continue to take those, so I can try and keep fit enough to do whatever it is I want to do, whether that's work or play.
I’m on the go all the time, I don’t sit down very much. I used to play a lot of tennis when I was younger but not since I broke my shoulder playing a few years ago. But I have an absolutely beautiful dog called Polly, a King Charles Spaniel and we walk the dog and take her everywhere with us.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I always find that question really tricky to be absolutely honest. My dad was a newspaper man by day and he was a magician by night, so he always said to me to make the most of every day, and I think I've always tried to live my life like that,, maybe too much sometimes.
What would I tell myself? I would tell myself to live as fully and as best as I can and I can say that because I can look back and see how many great periods I’ve enjoyed in my life. From being a singer at 7 years old to moving to Canada for a year at 17, then being offered a job in broadcasting at BBC NI before going on to present Good Evening Ulster which was a pivotal point in my career as people loved that hour of local news and views. Then I was given the opportunity to be the first woman to host a national radio show on BBC 2 and after that I got my own TV chat show and took part in lots of prime-time TV programmes like Blankety Blank amongst others. I really do feel as if I’ve had a lot of luck and led nine different lives at times.
What age has been the best age of your life? Why?
If somebody could give me the magic potion and I could be whatever age I wanted at this particular point. I think I'd like to go back to being about 39 because at 39 you pretty well know what you want to do in life.
But then on the other hand you know you could look at so many years, you know your first baby being born and your other babies being born. It's very difficult to isolate a life period because all those periods bring along their joys, but you know having my children was the best thing I ever did in life.
What is your earliest memory?
My earliest memory is being pushed in a large doll's pram by my sister Lena. She was very conscious of having a real-life doll and she had me in the doll's pram pushing me up and down a big long pathway that we had at the back of our house. I could have been 18 months or I could have been two, whatever age I could still fit in that pram.
Lena was seven years older than me and my brother Charles was seven years younger, so when we found out about sex, we thought that our parents only did it every seven years.
Definitely my children. I say to Loose Women many many times, if I had my life to live over again. I would try to have four children because as you get older you appreciate your children more and more, as I always did. I love the way they have all turned out, as they are very admirable and kind people in their own right.
The other achievement I suppose would be having such a long career, because I'm probably give or take the oldest woman working regularly on TV and I'm very proud of still doing it.
Northern Ireland has a great work ethic and we were taught to work hard from an early age. Having said that I’m not very good at relaxing, so sometimes when I sit down to do nothing, I hear my mother's voice in my head saying ‘go off and do something’ and that's why I think I've always been a busy person.
What is the biggest misconception about getting older?
I think judging from what other people occasionally say, is that they don't feel relevant sometimes or they can feel overlooked. Luckily I don’t feel like that and even through television for example is a very young industry, I still feel relevant, maybe it’s my years of experience that keep me in the loop.
I personally think that older people, especially grandparents have so much to offer that I wish that we were a bit more like France and Italy, where you know the Elder sits at the head of the table and they're asked all the questions. You know their opinion is really valuable and in a way. I sometimes wish we were all a bit more like that in our country.
One of the best examples I know of, is a care home near me in SevenOaks, they have older people aged 96 and 98 who are very active, I don’t know what they put in their tea. They also have a children's nursery there. It's lovely around playtime to see older people sitting out on chairs and really enjoying telling the children's stories about the games they used to play when they were small - the older people benefit and the children love it - it's a great combination.
I do feel that older people have such a lot to offer in experience and in history.
What memories do you share with your grandchildren?
I do talk quite a lot to my grandchildren about what things were like all those years ago. I’ve seen so many developments in my lifetime, it’s ridiculous, so we have a lot to talk about. I remember buying my mother her first fridge from my first pay packet, she was a wonderful cook and she couldn't believe that she now had a fridge and didn't have to put all her butter and cheese into a wooden box out in the back garden. So, they can't believe that there was a time that there wasn't a fridge in the house or indeed electricity or an inside toilet.
These days, we're blessed with all the machinery. We've got washing machines and fridges and computers and mobile phones. We didn't even have a phone in our house, so when I went to Canada at 17, my mother had to go to the red phone box down the road on Monday nights at 7pm to receive my phone call. My age group have lived through so much change.
So that's why I say that in terms of memories and in terms of experience. I think that older people have a lot to offer.
©Image by Allen Olley