Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mind Games; Melanie McDonagh Meets a Woman Who Wants Ageing to Be Fun

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mind Games; Melanie McDonagh Meets a Woman Who Wants Ageing to Be Fun

Article excerpt

Byline: Melanie McDonagh

IT wasn't your average NHS launch. This week's opening party for Jill Shaw Ruddock's Second Half Centre for better ageing in Exmoor Street, north Kensington, had champagne from Veuve Clicquot, while the guests included the US Ambassador, Louis Susman, and actress Diana Quick. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, opened it. Marshalling the guests was Shaw Ruddock herself.

It took her just two years to get the charity off the ground.

You know how small people are credited with large reserves of dynamism? You could bear out the theory on the back of Napoleon and Jill Shaw Ruddock. "It's quite humbling," she says. "It's such a bigger programme than I ever imagined. I used to work for an investment bank but that's a picnic compared to this."

She's petite, 57, pretty and married to Sir Paul Ruddock, chairman of Lansdowne Securities. She's the only American you'll ever meet who'll ask you whether she's talking too fast. The centre is based on the premise of her book, The Second Half of Your Life, which approaches the menopause as a liberating event. Her prescription for ageing is another five-a-day -- engagement with community and family; regular exercise; wholesome diet; mental stimulation; purpose in life -- and all of it, she says, you can get at the Second Half Centre.

"We can all talk about isolation for older people," she says, "but to provide a place where people can come -- that's what I think is a solution." It's based in the NHS St Charles' Centre for Health and Wellbeing. "When you think what we spend on dementia ..." she adds, "... well, this place is all about prevention."

It's got an extraordinary range of activities, from needlepoint to life-coaching, delivered by experts (the art history teacher is from the Courtauld), plus a cafe. …

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