On day four of her health regime at Grayshott Spa, Sarah Vine is learning about anti-ageing from her fellow spa-goers
As expected, I’ve been learning lots this week about healthy eating . What I hadn’t expected was to meet so many wonderful and fascinating women - and to learn so much from them.
One thing on the agenda has been anti-ageing, which curiously has been in the news this week thanks to a small study of attitudes of women over 60.
According to Dr Caroline Mair, of the London College of Fashion, older women don't want to look younger; they just want to look good.
Speaking at the British Psychological Society, Mair said: "We're always being told older women are suffering from a crisis of self-confidence… but the research shows they don't want to be the target of age-defying and "youth-promoting" messages.
I'll say. There are six over-sixties in my group, ranging in age from 62 to seventy-something. And the one thing they were most definitely not doing was suffering from any sort of crisis of self-confidence.
We are all here for various reasons, but we come together three times a day at the dining table to consume our gourmet rations. And despite the complete lack of alcohol, sugar, carbs, coffee or other stimulants, we manage to make more noise than all the other diners put together.
After a shaky mid-week wobble, I've never felt better. Not just because of the detox and the chance to have a proper rest. But because if this is what being an old lady looks like, then sign me up. It’s not just the confidence, the experience, the strength of character or the tales they told; it was the fact that, steel pins, chest problem, bereavement and goodness knows what else besides, these women are unstoppable balls of raw energy. Even on half a prawn and a cup of broth a day.
And yes, Mair is right. They are all universally interested in their appearance. Not obsessed, mind. But they want to look their best. When I show them my makeup bag, they descend upon it like excited schoolgirls, eagerly taking notes.
They are interested in good products and treatments and are harshly critical of anything that doesn’t live up to their exacting standards. They are happy to invest in themselves, but demand the best standard of service.
Looking younger, however, isn’t something that bothers especially. If anything, they have a horror of seeming foolish by trying to appear any less than their years. They want to be a bit slimmer, for sure (don't we all); but mostly they want to look and feel the best they can.
To be honest, though, I’m not entirely surprised by their attitude. My own mother still cares as much about her appearance now as she did when she was younger - and is just as gorgeous looking as she ever was, albeit in a different way. Her own mother was the same until the day she died: she would never have dreamed of letting her appearance slip.
In fact, if anything, I would say older women spend more time and money on the way they look than, say, a “youngster” such as myself. Which makes the beauty industry’s ongoing refusal to even acknowledge their existence not only patronising - but also economically incontinent.
These women - and the generations of women bringing up the rear - are not going to just fade to grey. They want products and treatments as varied and as colourful as the lives they have lived. As one of them said to me: “I went and had my makeup done at the Bobbi Brown counter recently. It was absolutely lovely, don’t get me wrong. But it was awfully safe.”