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'You don't stop because you're old' - meet the 80 year-old bell-ringer from Norfolk who feels 10 years younger thanks to a new hobby

PUBLISHED: 09:50 13 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:50 13 January 2020

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

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As many of us mark the start of 2020 by joining a gym, changing our diets and vowing to live life to the full, a bell-ringer from Norfolk explains how a new hobby has helped her to feel 10 years younger.

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Some of us have even signed up to an evening class to learn a skill that we've always wanted to pursue.

But it was boredom which first encouraged Pauline Peters, 80, to find a new hobby - and she says it's left her feeling 10 years younger.

"I was bored," she says. "I saw these adverts for bell-ringers for the commemoration of the First World War - they wanted 1,400 bell ringers to replace the ones that were killed during the war and I thought 'I'll have a go at that!'"

So Pauline joined her local group at St Giles Church in Norwich, and has been hooked ever since.

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

She, along with around 10 other beginners, take part in a lesson twice a week - beginning each one by climbing 52 steps to the top.

"The actual pulling of the bells is quite easy," she says, "it's getting up the stairs that's the hard part!

"If it's hard work pulling the bells, you're not doing it properly, but the exercise is in moving the bell rope right up in the air and making sure you're steady on your feet to bring it down - it certainly helps with your breathing."

As well as the weekly lessons, Pauline and the rest of the group, aged between 9 and 90, enjoy regular days out together, visiting - and ringing the bells of - churches across Norfolk. And for Pauline, it is this - getting out and about and sharing other people's company - that is just as important as the physical activity.

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

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"The people make the group special," says Pauline. "Everyone is so nice - even the top-notch ones, when you make a mistake, say 'don't worry!' All of the people I started with are streets ahead, but I don't care."

Pauline says that since taking up the hobby she feels 10 years younger. She's just joined the Women's Guild and incorporates it into her weekly routine, ringing in the afternoon with the ladies' group and then walking her dog.

"You can sit at home and knit and look at people and the world going by," she says, "but I didn't want to do that. This stops me thinking 'crumbs, how long have I got left?'"

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

"My friend mentioned coming to a group for older people, but I don't want to be with a bunch of old people," she says. "I want to do something. You don't stop doing things because you're old - you get old because you stop doing things."

Pauline encourages anyone who is interested in bell-ringing, and who can "get up those stairs", to try the weekly group at St Giles Church in Norwich, but also says there are plenty of places where you can do the activity at ground-level, too, and it's just one of the many ways you can boost your health and wellbeing.

Launched in October 2019, still young enough to is a campaign from Norfolk County Council to encourage older residents, aged 50 plus, to stay active.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council, said: "We want people across Norfolk to be able to live longer and healthier lives and continue to contribute to their community. The key thing is to choose something you enjoy, that you can incorporate into your daily routine, whether it's walking the dog, taking up a new active hobby or playing with your grandchildren in the park."

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

In rural counties such as Norfolk, the proportion of people aged 65 and over is now 24pc of the whole county's population, according to Professor Carol Brayne, director of the Cambridge Institute for Public Health.

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"The ability to grow older healthily is dependent upon a complex mix of many factors," she says. "Social isolation, physical and mental stimulation and socio-economic background are all contributing factors. Studies show that by being physically and mentally active in middle age and continuing these habits into and beyond retirement are more likely to result in people living healthier lives for longer."

A recent study published by the BMJ earlier this week suggests that women can be free of cancer, heart problems and type-2 diabetes for an additional 10 years if they follow a healthy lifestyle, while men can gain an additional seven years.

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

This is based on US research which tracked 111,000 people for more than 20 years. The effects were seen in participants who exercised regularly, drank in moderation only, didn't smoke and had a healthy weight and good diet.

STILL YOUNG ENOUGH TO...

NHS guidelines suggest that healthy individuals aim to take part in 150 minutes - that's 2.5 hours - of moderate activity a week.

Boredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilBoredom first encouraged Pauline, now 80, to start a new hobby joining bell-ringers at St Giles Church in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council's new campaign, still young enough to, encourages older people throughout Norfolk to stay active and embrace a healthier way of life. To find out more about what activities you can do, visit the website at www.norfolk.gov.uk/stillyoungenoughto or follow along on social media at #stillyoungenoughto

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