It is fitting that high50’s first member event in London took place in the very house in which JM Barrie wrote Peter Pan. It is now the home of the Kennet Institute, a hotbed of intellectual discussion and the exchange of ideas, and it was the perfect setting for youthful 50-somethings to enjoy a glass of wine, meet fellow high50-ers and discover the secrets of anti-ageing.
We invited 80 members to our evening with acclaimed author and high50 health correspondent Jerome Burne. It was to celebrate publication of The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing, which he has written with nutritionist Patrick Holford.
Among attendees were sculptress Emily Young, who grew up in the house (and is said to have inspired Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’); Henrietta Green, who is responsible for the resurgence of farmers’ markets in the UK; food writer Lindsey Bareham, and Dr Marion Gluck, one of the UK’s most eminent authorities on women’s health.
Oh, and Lucian Freud’s former and sometime unpaid assistant, the writer and health worker Rebecca Wallersteiner.
The recently established Kennet Institute is a magical venue, situated north of Hyde Park. Barrie lived here and wrote his book in the coach house, now a garden studio. Later, the widow of Scott of the Antartic lived here with her second husband, the first Baron Kennet, in 1922.
Very little has changed since Kathleen Kennet’s time. To walk through its doors into the elegant drawing room is to step back in time to a room lined with books, old photographs, statues, musical instruments and geological artefacts.
The sense of occasion was palpable, yet the atmosphere was relaxed. Above all, we were in a home, however grand.
Jerome Burne is an accomplished speaker who knows his subject inside out, and has the ability to explain complex information in simple terms without being condescending. He was interviewed by the broadcaster Gill Pyrah, who, as well as being Burne’s fiercest critic, is also his wife. She kept him on his toes.
He addressed such questions as: Why is it important to develop a life skill in growing older, much as we learn how to negotiate with bank managers or become parents? Why are half of Britain’s 65-year-olds on five drugs a day, and how can we avoid that happening to us? Can vitamins and minerals help us stay youthful? Why are statins not the wonder drug we have been led to believe?
We learned how a nutritional approach is better than pharmaceuticals alone, and that conventional medicine leeches important minerals and vitamins from your system. Jerome discussed the role of B vitamins in lowering homocysteine levels to reduce the threat of Alzheimer’s disease, and why exercise has a beneficial effect on maintaining brain health as well as physical wellbeing.
The big ask
We had planned a question and answer session at the end of the talk, but many of the audience pitched in along the way with comments and questions. It all added to the discussion. As with our recent record listening club, we were delighted to see how intelligent, interested and vocal our members are.
After Jerome had completed his interview with Gill, there were so many questions from the floor that we overran. But Jerome had given us plenty of food for thought, as was evident in the number of members who went home clutching a signed copy of The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing.
Video: Jerome Burne’s anti-ageing talk