17 vital life lessons from the guests at the Real Marigold Hotel

The young-at-heart retirees reveal the secrets to happiness

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Lionel Blair, Entertainer, age 88

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Age is nothing to be ashamed of

I always used to lie about my age. I didn’t want TV companies to hire someone younger. But now I tell everybody! I’m proud that I’m still tap dancing at 88. I have a power plate machine at home, which keeps everything jiggling and shaking and moving!

Bickering is best

It’s my golden-wedding anniversary this year, and Susan and I love each other so much. I think the secret to a long marriage is to do as much as possible together. We argue a lot, but that clears the air!

Just say no

When you’re young, you say yes to everything that comes along, but actually the world doesn’t stop turning just because you turn things down.

If I had my time again

With hindsight, I do wish I’d done more drama. I’d love to be a baddie in EastEnders. Perhaps it’s not too late.


Sheila Ferguson, soul singer, age 69

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Friends matter

It has altered my life. It made me address issues that I have been sweeping under the carpet for years, and it made me plan for the end of my life. I live in a big empty house in Majorca, which is beautiful, but all my friends are in the UK. If I fell down, I could be dead for a week and nobody would find me. So I’m selling up and coming home

You’re never too old to date

Loneliness. Seven years after my partner [theatre technician Jon Curry] died, I’ve decided I’m going to start dating again. If I don’t find a man to spend the rest of my life with, at least the quality of my life will be better. Being alone can be wonderful, but I don’t want to finish my life that way.

If I could have my life over

I’m not the kind of person who thinks, “Woulda coulda shoulda”. I made decisions based on the knowledge I had at the time. I think your instincts are 90 per cent likely to be right, so if you follow them, you can’t go too far wrong.


Miriam Stoppard, Agony aunt, age 79

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Nothing beats grandchildren

I have 11 grandchildren, with one more on the way, and I value them very much. They are a very high priority for me.

We’ve lost our way

In India we saw people living very simple, pure lives, with not very much, and it did make me think that somewhere in the West, we’ve gone off course. I can’t retire to India because I couldn’t leave my grandchildren. But I will spend a few months of the year there.

Sitting down kills you

I exercise every day. I walk for two hours, I do hill climbs on my spinning bike, and I go to the gym once a week. All the research that I read tells me that sitting down kills you. And exercise isn’t just good physically, it’s good mentally, too. Your brain loves exercise.

There is a good death

I’m hoping I’ll keel over in the flowerbed while dead-heading the roses. Nice and quick, doing something I love.

Laughter really is the best medicine

I’ll tell you a little secret. Every time you laugh, your T-cells go up, and T-cells are part of your immune system. So if you have a good laugh, your T-cells get a boost that will last all weekend, and ward off illness.


Dennis Taylor, snooker commentator, age 68

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Laughing keeps you young

I play a lot of golf with the comedian Stan Boardman, and he never stops laughing. He is the fittest 79-year-old I’ve seen.

Listen to grandpa

Growing up in Ireland, my grandfather told me England was the greatest country in the world because, if you’re prepared to work, you can earn money. So I came over aged 17 and did a variety of things, including working 12-hour shifts in a paper mill, seven days a week.

When I became a professional snooker player I grafted hard, and I became quite good at it, and it’s afforded me all these opportunities. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Family matters

Indians are so family orientated. We tend to forget to put our families first. You’ve got to make sure you enjoy every minute with them.

Don’t be scared to be yourself

There’s a gap between how you see yourself, and how other people see you. I was on Strictly in 2005 and one night at an event, some girls dragged me on to the dance floor. I heard one saying, “Oh, it’s just like dancing with Hugh Heffner.” So I didn’t get back on the dance floor for a few years after that!

Live every day to the max

Back in 1984, my mum died suddenly when I was at a snooker tournament. She was only 62, and had had a massive heart attack. From that day, I’ve never really worried about anything. Every time I have a good day, that’s another little tick in the book, because you don’t know when it’s all going to be over. 

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The Real Marigold Hotel series two is on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC1