Is age just a nasty number?

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Men and women have fought the ageing process since time immemorial, such is our desire to stay young.

But can we really combat it?

While I have managed to lose three stones in the past three years, I can do nothing to stop my hairline receding or combat new hair sprouts in my ears and nostrils.

My 85-year-old uncle Albi is showing no signs of slowing down – he regularly sails his 50ft yacht and is currently awaiting a second hip replacement so he can continue to ski each winter. His daily exercise routine comprises splitting logs with an axe before carrying them up three floors and he regularly engages in winter swims in the sea. A recent study in America revealed that about 60 per cent of cancers are lifestyle-related and preventable. However, the other 40 per cent are genetic and virtually unavoidable. So while we can improve our chances of staying healthy and feeling young, we can all be trumped by fate.

My beloved 75-year-old uncle Colin has always been a physical person, playing football into his 50s, golf into his 70s and regularly visiting the gym, yet for years we have been teasing him about losing his marbles. He once went to work wearing one brown slip-on shoe and one black lace-up, and, after unsuccessfully trying to fry chips in a pan for more than half-an-hour, realised they were boiling away in lime cordial, not vegetable oil.

My wife thinks Colin and I are similar and that I’m already showing similar signs. Like him, I regularly misplace my keys and wallet and my short-term memory seems to be getting worse. My eyesight is deteriorating at an alarming rate and this year I had to switch to bifocal lenses then, while waiting for my new spectacles, I took advantage of a free hearing test to discover my hearing is also impaired. I lost my new glasses on the first day of a recent trip to Madrid and spent the rest of the holiday squinting at the museum exhibits like Mr Magoo.

Now well into my mid-life crises, dressing like my son, going to the gym and riding my vintage Lambretta, I will continue searching for the magic formula for eternal youth, and hopefully stumble into the ‘life-preserving’ swimming pool from the film Cocoon.

My uncle Colin, who regularly reads this column, will take some comfort from my final confession. I was riding my classic scooter home from work last Saturday, all suited and booted, and while at traffic lights caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window. When I looked down at my feet my heart sank when I realised I had been wearing odd shoes all day at the auction house.