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“A most unusual friendship between an ex-football hooligan and a latin teacher.” Tony Grounds, writer, When I’m 64
The generation of baby boomers who danced to rock ‘n’ roll and gave the world the ‘teenager’ have now reached maturity, and in much the same way as they redefined youth culture in their teens, so they are changing the goalposts on what it means to be 55+.
Physically and mentally they are healthier than any previous generation, not to mention richer – they own 80 per cent of the UK’s wealth, worth more than £280bn – than any who came before or who are likely to come after them, and constitute the fastest growing market for power bikes.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, granddad. But the picture isn’t all rosy.
Torn between the increased financial burden of caring for elderly parents, who themselves are living longer, and financially assisting children or grandchildren who are becoming ever-more dependent, this group have earned themselves the moniker ‘Sandwich Generation’ by Mintel.
Into this world come the characters of Tony Grounds’ drama for BBC TWO, When I’m 64 (Wednesday 4 August at 9.00pm), which asks whether it is ever too late to make changes in your life and follow the dreams of youth, and whether being 64 marks not the end of our lives, but just the beginning.
“When I’m 64 is about this third age,” says Grounds, “where, for many, suddenly you don’t have those responsibilities, you don’t have a mortgage, you don’t have the kids at home and you don’t need to work.
“It’s like a gap year later on in life to do whatever you want to. You get a chance to be more selfish and have time for you.”
When widowed cabbie Ray (Paul Freeman) picks up a fare from the local public school, little does he realise just how much it will change his world.
His passenger is Jim (Alun Armstrong), a public school teacher of Latin, who has just retired having been a pupil at the school he taught at.
As the boys at the school where he works have come and gone, he has watched the world change and made all sorts of plans from behind the school gates.
Now the future has arrived he desperately wants to sample life, but does not know how, or if, he can.
He is determined to do two things with his life: travel and fall in love.
A former football hooligan, Ray has now settled down to look after his two grown-up children: his son, Little Ray (Jason Flemyng), is doing extremely well indeed with a wife who believes he should strive to do even better; and his daughter, Caz (Tamzin Outhwaite), who is not as affluent but has created a secure and loving family with her husband, with a fourth child on its way.
But as the anniversary of his wife’s death approaches, Ray too is left wondering if there’s anything more for him other than being the unpaid baby-sitter.
Despite coming from two very different worlds, Ray and Jim have an instant rapport – both realise that they’re not as old as society would have them believe and that there’s still some life in the old dogs yet, nose jobs included.
Yet the growing friendship between Ray and Jim threatens Ray’s children. They have their own plans for what Ray should be doing in his retirement, and spending their birthright isn’t one of them.
Little Ray and Caz uncover some uncomfortable truths, and Ray and Jim have to come to terms with the prejudices of ageism, family loyalty and love.
“It’s Jim’s desire to create a ‘whole new me’ that attracts Ray and acts as the catalyst,” says producer, Pier Wilkie.
“Tony’s idea coincided with a story that executive producer, Jessica Pope, related about a family friend who had made a surprising and life changing revelation – that he had been having an affair with a man for ten years, despite being married with children for 30.
“It was important for us in addressing what it means to be in your sixties in this day and age that we avoided clichés and references to aching old bones but told a very particular story,” she continues.
“The underlying theme that you’re never too old to make changes in your life is universal.
“Jim and Ray take a course they couldn’t contemplate in their youth, but they grasp the opposite now. They don’t bow to others’ expectations about how old men should behave.”
When I’m 64 is part of BBC TWO’s The Time of Your Life season, which looks at the shifting perceptions of what it means to be over 50 and celebrates the wealth of experiences and opportunities open to this generation.
It includes documentaries, Would Like to Meet… Esther; What I Wish I’d Known When I Was 20; and Trading Ages.
More details of the season are available at bbc.co.uk/lifestyle.
A BBC production, When I’m 64 is produced by Pier Wilkie (Residents, The Debt) and directed by Jon Jones (The Debt, The Alan Clark Diaries).
The executive producers are BBC Head of Drama Serials, Laura Mackie and Jessica Pope.