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Peter Bingle on reaching the autumn of your life and PR career

Mortality is fast approaching. I am approaching my 59th birthday. Part of me is amazed that I have lasted this long. The other is convinced that I have many more years left. To quote Gilbert and Sullivan in the opera Yeoman of the Guard: “In the autumn of our life… in the evening of our day ..”

Living life to the full has its benefits. On the other hand, there are risks. Every year I am summoned by my doctor to have a medical check-up. Bloods are taken and I await the fateful call to attend a meeting. Thankfully, thus far the medical response has been: “Amazingly, your liver is in pretty good shape.”

Life is a series of choices. Every day I have to choose what to eat and what to drink, what to do and what not to do. I have always taken the view that my priority has been to live life to the full whilst recognising that I have responsibilities to my family and my work colleagues and clients. I want to live a long life, but I also want to live a life full of laughter and fun in which I bring happiness and prosperity to those who are closest to me.

As a youngster, I was always the youngest in whatever I did. I started primary school aged four, secondary school aged ten and despite taking a year off I felt very young when I started at the London School of Economics. I was elected a local councillor aged just 22 and retired eight years later aged just thirty. I had the arrogance and invincibility of youth. Then, suddenly at the age of 27, I started to feel old. I was no longer the youngest. It was a problem. Two years later I met the love of my life and politics became irrelevant. Next year (God willing), I will celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary. How lucky am I?

Next year I will also be 60. There will be celebrations. No doubt a wonderful party to celebrate me reaching this momentous coming of age. And yet …

As I grow old I have started to lose friends and family. In the end, the Grim Reaper always gets his way. Aa a Catholic I have no problem with this. That said, it is all too easy to forget that as I grow old so do they. The inevitability of mortality becomes a given. The only wish is that friends and family (and eventually me) have a good death.

In the wonderful, but wacky world of consultancy, there are clear commercial benefits in growing old. Grey hair advice does mean larger fees. Clients aren’t silly. Why do they need or want best advice from a spotty youth who has no experience of anything? My wisdom (age and grey hair) commands premium fees. The challenge is to enjoy these golden years. In the world of music, many composers have had Indian Summers. The best example is Richard Strauss who composed the wondrous Four Last Songs aged 84. The last of the songs is Im Abendrot (At Sunset) which starts with the words: “Is this perhaps death?” Perhaps the most sublime music ever composed?

I have found growing old difficult. Part of me still refuses to accept that whilst my mental faculties are still sharp the rest of me needs a regular MOT. The reality, however, is that there is no alternative to growing old gracefully and sometimes disgracefully. I am bombarded by companies who take great delight in reminding me that I am growing old. I receive emails about funeral insurance every day. I have even started to think about the music I would like at my funeral. The choice will surprise my many friends.

I am confronting mortality with a smile. It holds no fears. I still have so much to do and want to have the opportunity to do so.

Wrtten by Peter Bingle, founder of agency Terrapin Communications

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