Diana Althill: Loving Life in the Later Years

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 19 January 2011

Editor/writer Diana Althill of London made a tough decision last year, at the age of 91. She moved into what she calls “an old person’s home.” At first, she thought it would be dreadful, that she would miss the apartment which had been home for many years. But, to her great surprise, she has enjoyed the transition.

In an interview from an October 2010 article in the New York Times by Sarah Lyall, Althill shared “how liberating it is… not a single domestic worry do I have.” She also described how downsizing gave her a new perspective on the relationship to her personal belongings: “It’s as though ‘possessing’ has been distilled down from being a vague pleasure to being an intense one. Less is more.”

This giant of the London literary world, an editor who was known for handling difficult manuscripts and writers, retired at 75, but did not stop working. She pursued a second career as a writer, publishing three memoirs at the age of 80.

One of these books – “Somewhere Towards the End” – was published when Ms. Althill was 90. The book takes on some rather complicated issues in regards to growing old that most would prefer not to discuss or ponder: sex and dying. Despite its unflinching look at the truth about old age, the book won several awards and has inspired many to face the later years with hope.

Althill’s story is quite interesting, as many who transition from their own home into a senior living setting tend to feel they have lost their freedom rather than gained the liberation she describes. While the lack of domestic responsibilities is freeing for some, others may feel that they have diminished purpose, that these activities brought fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment rather than a sense of obligation or dread. Many seniors are choosing a second (or third, fourth, fifth) career after retirement, as Ms. Althill has done.

To read the full interview, click here.

Your turn: What do you look forward to about retirement? Starting a second career, or pursuing other ventures?  Letting go of domestic worries, or embracing the luxury of more time to care for the home?

-Michelle Seitzer

There are 5 Comments about this post

  1. Oh, a lovely story! I have a friend who’s Mom is 94 and just moved to an assisted living community and both daughter and Mom thought it would be dreadful…but to their surprise!!!.. both agree it is delightful.

    I love Diana’s story here and your question on “what do I look forward to..” As Diana has chosen to continue the challenge of reinventing herself.. that’s my choice! My friend’s Mom (refer to above paragraph) is the same as Diana… she worked till she was 90!

    Gives me ton of hope.



    on 19 January 2011 / 10:39 AM

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Carol! Glad to hear that there are others out there who experienced the same surprising delight about the transition as Diana did. Gives me lots of hope too (I wouldn’t be surprised if the working ’til age 90 has something to do with it too)!

    Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your personal experiences and thoughts.


    on 19 January 2011 / 11:07 AM

  3. Michelle, what an excellent story and a refreshing perspective about the transition to retirement living. So much is made of the “loss of independence” whereas Diana describes her experience as “liberating”. She has been freed up to follow her professional and personal passions without the domestic responsibilities she once had. And while moving into “an old person’s home” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Diana’s story should let others out there know that it is a viable and potentially attractive option.

    Good for you Diana Althill! I have a feeling you’ll be active for many years to come.


    on 19 January 2011 / 3:07 PM

  4. Craig, thanks! Glad you stopped by the blog and shared your thoughts. I agree – much is made of the loss of independence. I wonder if that’s because we forget to ask the seniors themselves what they think of it? Of course, many do resist the transition for that reason, but it’s nice to see someone embracing it for the liberating experience that it can be. Diana is clearly doing that and setting a good example in the process.

    Thanks again for the comment!


    on 19 January 2011 / 3:12 PM

  5. Mary Janak says,

    Who is the editor of Seniors for Living? I am looking to hire a part-time contract editor for our professional e-journal that goes to professionals in the health, social and financial industries who serve seniors. I’d like to know if the editor is interested in exploring this job possibility, or can refer me to someone who is. 303-951-6561.


    on 30 August 2011 / 6:48 PM


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