Is romance in old age possible? Note two romantics, Murdoch and Lydon...

Rupert Murdoch and John Lydon present two different love stories for older romantics, says Colette Sheridan
Is romance in old age possible? Note two romantics, Murdoch and Lydon...

Nora Forster and John Lydon in 2013. She died last week after suffering Alzheimer's disease. Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

IF we’re lucky, we’ll get there, although for many people living to a grand old age, life is often blighted by infirmity, illness, and most depressing of all, Alzheimer’s disease.

Luck really is needed to make it into our autumn years unscathed by anything more serious than perhaps a touch of rheumatism and occasional forgetfulness.

Which is why I found myself googling ‘Rupert Murdoch health issues’.

The 92-year-old has reportedly broken off his engagement to a 66-year-old former San Francisco police chaplain, Ann Lesley Smith. He cited concerns about her evangelical views.

They were to marry this summer, a year after Murdoch’s divorce from model Jerry Hall.

I wonder did Smith have any concerns about getting hitched to the ancient billionaire media mogul who, with his fractious family, is the inspiration for the hit Succession series?

I mean, at his age, many men spend all day sitting by the fire, their hours punctuated by cups of tea and the occasional ‘medicinal’ snifter. Some may have incontinence. Let’s not go there.

But if you were getting hitched to a nonagenarian, wouldn’t you be a tad worried about becoming more of a nurse than a wife?

Murdoch, who has been married four times, has had health scares including a serious back injury. But he’s one gamey bloke who probably stops any negative news getting out about his health.

Before finishing with his fiancée, he told the New York Post recently that he was “happy. I was very nervous. I dreaded falling in love but I knew this would be my last. It better be,” he said.

Wow. What vitality.

Murdoch’s love life is a ticket to writing alimony cheques. Not that I’m suggesting for one moment that his ex-wives may have had their eye on the wealth that he has accumulated. But let’s face it, nothing in this life is free and having to bed down with an old man has to have some compensation.

Perhaps Murdoch had separate quarters from his former wives. I’d certainly demand such a condition if married to someone THAT age.

Call me uncharitable. But really, it’s about retaining a bit of dignity – for both parties.

Former punk rocker, John Lydon, however, doesn’t seem to have had a selfish bone in his body as he devotedly looked after his wife Nora Forster, who died last week, aged 80, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The ex-frontman of the Sex Pistols, more given to snarling than doting over a loved one, at least in his punk days, is a lesson to all of us. Instead of sending his wife to a nursing home, he was her primary carer and has said of her Alzheimer’s: “For me, the real person is still there. That person I love is still there every minute of every day and that is my life.”

After their decades together, Lydon, 67, said there would be “no one else” for either of them if the other died. Such loyalty, respect and even romance.

Theirs was a great love affair. Lydon said that their years together following his wife’s diagnosis were made more bearable by the couple continuing to dance together, watching television and reflecting on memories of holidays.

Lydon auditioned to represent Ireland (he has Cork roots) in the Eurovision Song Contest with his self-penned plaintive song, Hawaii, which recalled a great holiday he enjoyed there with Forster. It was one of their happiest times.

And that’s really all that’s left when you get old and can still remember the good old days. They are to be treasured in a sometimes cold and befuddling world.

Lydon himself has spoken of his own struggles with meningitis which resulted in memory loss as well as damaged eyesight and curvature of the spine. He spent a year in hospital following the disease.

The experience helped him to understand his wife’s illness, her vulnerabilities and needs.

He spoke to the Guardian last June about how soul-destroying lockdown was for Forster. She couldn’t understand why nobody was calling to see her. And as for those that did, they wore face masks which must have been bewildering for his wife. His goal during lockdown was trying to make sure he “never let her feel lonely”.

Lydon has said that he knows the fear of isolation. “I know what it’s like to feel completely frightened and not know where you are,” he said.

Looking after Forster was “not a job at all”. Lydon said: “You make your commitment to a person and nothing changes. These are the cards life dealt and my mum and dad were right – never show self-pity. Ever.”

Strong and wise words from a humble-sounding man who has raised much awareness around Alzheimer’s.

He married an older woman – and truly stayed the course. Bravo Johnny.

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