Young girls, it's time to come out of your cages. The main thing in life is not to be afraid to be human.

Life has certain givens. Everything changes and ends. Things do not always go according to our plans. Life is not always fair. You learn this sort of thing as you get older. Just as you discover late in the piece useful things like how it's always stylish to dress like a wealthy recluse or how to really have hot sex. Also no one cares if you make fiddly canapes or if you were once a Rhodes Scholar.

Only of late - I am 47 - have I discovered that I am actually not scared of ageing any more. Unlike, ironically, my colleague Verity Johnson, who is dancing in a cage because she is petrified of losing her sexual juju. She is about 20. Verity, who is a total babe, says we link youth to power in a way that makes anyone over 30 feel as relevant as a VCR.

Verity worries she will soon be "past it", although she has also said in her column many times how much she admires older women. I am now laughing a haggard, wrinkly, cynical wheeze like only a 47-year-old crone can. But lady, listen to me, because I've got on my condescending old- person chintzy cup-of-tea voice.

Your juju is not going to be over, even when you are 80. I not only am learning to love getting old myself, but I am learning to deeply love and respect the people who are known as the "super-old". (That's what the insurance industry call people who have got through the health danger zone and are now going to go on like Energiser bunnies for decades and wear t-shirts that say Rock 'n' roll Motherf*****.) See petal, there is hope!


It helps if you are creative and wealthy. My cool friend Barry Humphries is doing a gruelling tour of the US. Film-maker Frederick Wiseman, 84, who is about to enter a film in Cannes, says "All of my friends are either dead or still working." The New York Times ran an article on Old Masters. "After 80, some people don't retire, they reign."

I'm a little odd as I have always loved to be around old people. As a child I found other children terrifying. I preferred reading my book while watching my parents playing bridge. Old people also know stuff. The 79-year-old writer, Lewis Lapham, says that he realises what is at stake as you age isn't a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self. Come out of your cage Verity. The main thing in life is not to be afraid to be human. It took me a long time to learn that.

Here are some of the other things the "super-old" could teach us. The most important one: don't ever stop working. Even though all our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling, in the end. (Blaise Pascal). Dark feelings are inevitable but you can use them rather than running away from them. Failure is its own reward.

When you get old you realise limitations are a blessing, bounty can be a curse. As you get older you realise even if you are hurt you are not going to be destroyed. You learn the power of simplicity. The path to that glorious oxytocin-sozzled place of peace lies in "ego-dismantlement" - losing one's attachment to the glossy, the powerful, the conquering, psychotically ambitious (frequently sociopathic). Letting go of all that stuff, and just realising we are all pretty much stuff-ups and no one is that shit-hot really.

There is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way, unless you are waiting for an organ. You can't buy, achieve or date it. This is the most horrible truth (Anne Lamott). Listen up people with powerful careers, or powerful cars or those revolting jeans with big flappy pockets and white stitching that property developers wear and make them look like they have very large arses.

And since today I am trying to be Yoda, in my PJs, Verity darling, you are hot now and you will always be hot, just remember this one thing. "You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies ... you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then - to learn. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Never stop learning."

That's from Lewis Lapham, but may I add, don't bother learning to make canapes.