What do you associate with the word retirement?
Retirement has changed a lot over the years. When I was growing up, retirement seemed to be for old people who were ready to retire. Nowadays, people are living longer and using their retirement in a much different way. I know lots of people who've been so looking forward to their retirement so they can go and spend maybe three months in Spain or play golf. People are living longer, healthier lives, more active, and looking forward to doing all the things that they want to do when they leave work.
But then you have oddballs like me. Retirement hasn't entered into my psyche yet! But I'm lucky in as much that I'm not working every day so I can pace myself. I'm doing a job that I absolutely love because I meet new people every day. I learn something every day, which is really important. I'm keeping my mind quite alert by learning new facts or doing research, but I understand why people who have worked all their lives want their retirement. They want to sail around the world or spend it with their grandchildren and families, and I really appreciate that. But I don't feel as if I'm quite at that point yet.
Television and radio aren’t the only things that keep me busy. I run the foundation in memory of my daughter Caron, who lost her life after a seven-year battle with cancer, and that takes up quite a lot of my time. But even if I wasn't doing all of that, I'd find something to do, because I think I've been a busy person all my life.
I started to sing when I was seven, and then went into broadcasting later. So I've always been 'at it' if you like! I think I was just born with a natural energy for life. And as I get older it's not so much how I look or what weight I am, it's do I have the energy to do the things that I really want to do? Because I think as you get older, energy is the key.
How do you keep that energy going?
I do think I have a natural zest, but I am a bit of a vitamin freak. I used to read those Hollywood magazines with people who were maybe 60 or 70, but they all looked 40 or 45 and I thought, those vitamins must do you good. I remember going into the chemist in my home town in Northern Ireland and asking for vitamins. And he said, ‘Now, why would you want those? Because I know your mum and she's a really good cook and you get good food.’ I said ‘Because the Hollywood stars say so!’ So I started to take a general vitamin from that point on. But then when I came to London, I met the naturopath Jan de Vries, and he taught me what the vitamin supplements were and why I should take them. Whether they make a difference or not, I don't know. But I imagine if I didn't take them that I'd probably fall apart!
Would you have a fixed point in time where you say, that's the time I'm going to slow down and retire?
I don't have a fixed time because I'm still working. The thing is that if somebody wants you to work and if you like it, you're going to do it. We’ve been commissioned for Rip Off Britain until 2022. Why would I retire in 2020? I do admire retirement, I really see the benefit of it for an awful lot of people. And I know a lot of my friends would say they wish they’d retired earlier. Although my husband is retired and would never say to me ‘give up work’, there are little hints sometimes that he thinks that I’m working too hard and maybe I should slow down. I accept the fact and I do try not to work all the time. So those days off, when I set those aside, they're precious and I enjoy them.
I love the fact that generally people are living longer and are more vibrant, and have more energy to want to do things. That's really why I think retirement is great because again, going back years, retirement meant maybe you sat in a chair half the day. We now know medically that that's not good for you. A lot of people lose their impetus for life, they lose a lot of their health by retiring and just sitting, doing nothing. So I think retirement these days is quite exciting, really.
What challenges do you find in later life? Is anything holding you back?
Oh, I think when the big numbers come around, that's a bit of a challenge. I work with a lot of young people and they go, ‘Oh, my goodness, I'm going to be 30 next week.’ And I think to myself, if only you knew how I wish I was 30 next week! But then on the other hand, would I want to be that age again? Probably not. For me, I think 49 was just a great period because by 49, you know pretty well what you want to do in life, but you're not quite 50. 60 was a big number for me. 70 was even bigger. And I hate the next one to come! I would be telling a lie if I said that I was looking forward to the next big one, I'm not. I'm looking forward to keeping as busy as I am, hopefully, and trying to keep my energy going. But I've already told my family the type of cards I don’t want to receive! I hate the number but I’m glad to be alive to celebrate it.
As you get older, you can be quite proactive in terms of your health. I've always tried to be ahead in terms of vitamins and trying to take extra supplements to keep myself healthy. But I do think you have to be proactive with all those twinges and things that come along naturally as you get older. You have to really act on those. My husband, Stephen, for example, has had a really bad year because he had prostate cancer, which he beat successfully, and that was really good news. But then he had a very bad fall in November and he had a fracture at the base of the spine. It gave me a big insight as to what happens then when, for example, he was on a Zimmer frame for support for two months. And that was a bit scary because it gave me that vision into age. You have to be very wary as you get that bit older, these things can happen whether it's disease or a fall or something like that. I do try at least and keep up to speed with it all.
When you take time out, where is your dream holiday destination?
Well, I've done quite a lot of travelling in my time. I've been to dream destinations like the Seychelles, I went there for work. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, I’ve never seen such white sand and such blue water.
As a family, we bought a home together in France. And if you said to me for the rest of your life, you can only go to France for your holidays, I'd be happy. And I don't mean that to be defeatist, but I have found I'm never bored. I like the sun but I don't lie in it all the time. There's so much more to do. So I want a holiday where there's something to do and you're not just reading and lying on the beach all day, that's not me. But some people love it. We do Rip Off Britain: Holidays in Tenerife every year, and I meet people there who just love being there. One lady was telling me that her husband had a heart attack and is doing well, but they go every eight weeks to Tenerife just to enjoy the sun. That's how they spend their retirement. And so I really admired that because she was determined that her husband was going to get fresh air, sunshine and rest.
I like the States very much, I like Florida, and I think that it offers quite a lot. Whether it's a calm beach on the West Coast or a stormy beach with all the waves, there are just lots of other things to do. You can relax and lie on the beach all day if you want to, that's what most people want out of a holiday. Other people want active holidays like going to museums, but I'm not that active. I like the choice of something to do other than just sitting around on a beach. I don't want to sit around all the time.
Do you see your grandchildren a lot?
Well, we have ten grandchildren between me and my husband. I love all my grandchildren but because we lost Caron, I pay particular attention to Charlie and Gabriel. It used to be that Caron would arrive at my door and say ‘Can you have the boys for the weekend?’ That was fantastic. But of course, as the grandchildren get older I have had to learn how to tap into their lives rather than them coming into my life. Gone are the days where they are dropped off to you for the weekend, because they want to go out with their friends. They then start having girlfriends, then in my case start having jobs. They're working from morning to night, not getting home until eight or nine. Obviously they want their social life. So I make a point of taking them out to dinner or the theatre, in other words, trying to make memories with them. They're not just my grandchildren. I really enjoy their company.
I think also times have changed. I mean, when I had children, there wouldn't have been a week that went by when I wouldn't bring my children to see my parents. You wanted your parents to see your children and to watch them grow up. But life has got busy and even that has changed. Sometimes I meet families who live a matter of doors away from each other and actually I quite envy it, you realise that the kids come in for a visit from school. I like that idea. But then when I was growing up, we were pretty well all in the same road. Your granny lived over there and your Aunt Myrtle lived over here; your family lived around you. But families are dispersed now. Quite often I'll ask the young researchers ‘Where do you live?’ They might say Scotland. ‘When did you last go to see your parents?’ ‘Must be about nine months ago,’ and I'll say, ‘Get on that plane or something and you go and see them!’ I think that just comes with age. You change your priorities in life, don't you? I hear more and more of parents moving to be nearer their children and their grandchildren.
I love the opportunity of spending more time with my grandchildren because I adore them and I really feel at my best when I'm with them. They're full of joy, full of life, just full of fun. I am very, very family-led. I had great parents. My mum used to always say things like ‘The family that eats together stays together.’ I would never dream of having a television dinner on my knees. And she said funny things like ‘Now remember in life that you should always have a really good bed and a good pair of shoes, because if you're not in one, you're in the other.’ And of course, when you think that one through, it's absolutely right! She was very ahead of her time. She taught me marvellous things and I didn't realise how good they were at the time, but I now still use them. She used to say to me, ‘Never surround yourself with negative people, because if you do, you will end up negative yourself. Always surround yourself with people who've got good energy and positivity.’
I think loneliness is one of the biggest problems in this country generally. Retirement homes and sometimes care homes are a great way for people to keep their longevity because reports say that socialisation is now one of the keys to longevity. I remember talking to a man who was 92 years of age and he'd been scammed of all his savings. And at the end, I said to him, ‘John, how do you feel about all of that now?’ And he said, ‘The problem is, people like you don't realise that I might not speak to a living soul for two whole weeks. And these people were really nice, they talked to me and they made me cups of tea.’ But in the meantime, they took all his money. Loneliness is a terrible problem.
I went to a care home in Sevenoaks a few weeks ago. Once a month they host the Friendship Café, where they invite anybody in the area in who's either lonely or just wants to meet new people. But what was lovely that day was that some of them were neighbours, but they hadn't actually met yet. So over a cup of tea and bit of cake, they had either made new friends or connected with people they've seen in the area. It was fantastic, I think it's a great idea. And of course, we all we all know somebody who's older, maybe more vulnerable. And half the time, all people want is a cup of tea and a bit of a chat. You know, that's really all they are looking for.
You’ve been presenting Rip Off Britain since 2009, but have you yourself ever been a victim of a scam?
Yes, I was the victim of a huge scam. Now, bear in mind that I spend my living exposing scams. I mean, it was a shock to me that my bank gave four complete strangers access to my entire account. It was a savings account, I hadn't touched it for years so I got my money back because it clearly wasn't my fault. The scammers are so clever that they're almost ahead of the police as police solve each case. I was furious. One of my sons said to me ‘You got your money back, why are you worried?’ I said ‘I expose scams for a living. So I've really got to investigate this one and see what happened.’ In my opinion it was a mistake at the bank because they didn't do the proper checks, they just gave money to four strangers who walked in. If my husband went in to the bank and said, ‘Would you sign Gloria's account over to me?’ the bank would say, ‘Sorry, I can't do that.’ I would have to be there to approve it. But four complete strangers can do it, and get away with it! That was very scary to me. I asked the bank what they had shown in terms of identity. They told me it was a driving licence with my details but another woman’s face on it. In terms of identification, you didn't have to fill anything out.
How can people ward off scams?
Well, sometimes it can be a mistake. But other times it can be a push payment scam, which is the individual's fault. I’ll give you an example: one of our cases on the programme was a man who had, for his 70th birthday, saved up so he could take all his family away for a holiday. He found a house that he liked, that would take everybody, rang up the owner, and booked it for £12,000 for the week. The owner said ‘It's £12,000, but if you send me the money upfront, I'll take £2000 off, so it’ll be £10,000.’ He thought that was great so he sent the money. But as soon as you push that button on your computer, you've lost that money because you've done it voluntarily. There's been no bank at all involved in that sense. And when he got there, the awful thing was there was no house available at all, so then he had to go and rent another house and he'd lost £10,000.
There are so many sophisticated scams. But what we really try to teach people is not to fall into those traps. Put the phone down. Don't take it at face value. Don't open the door to cold callers. And if you've got any suspicion at all, get one of your family or a friend to come and really check it out.
I also remember one man who’d just been diagnosed with the beginnings of dementia. His son found out that he was writing endless cheques. £20,000 here, £10,000 there. The son eventually realised that his father was being scammed. He offered to manage his father’s affairs. His father wasn’t happy about losing his last bit of independence. Sometimes you have that argument because people, as they get older, want to keep their own independence. My sister died of dementia, and the thing that really annoyed her was the fact that other people were managing her money because all her life she had managed the money in the household. There are many different layers of it.
How have you prepared for later life?
A will is so important. I have found myself a solicitor that my sons really like, because I wanted my will to be managed by a solicitor who they would get on with as well. I made sure that they meet up and they have good conversations. So I know that my affairs are in order.
People really have to learn how to prepare for retirement. It's very important to have your own financial affairs in order. You know the old saying, ‘where’s there’s a will there’s a family’. It is really essential to have a will made because we've all seen calamities where a will hasn't been made and things go wrong. What I've also noticed about visiting retirement centres is that a lot of women don't get involved with running the house from a financial point of view. They get housekeeping money and they buy the food and cook it. I've seen so many women who said, ‘Well, my husband always wrote all the cheques. He paid all the bills.’ I do think that women could get more involved in knowing what they should do. What happens really from that point of view? Power of attorney is really important if you have someone in your family who's not well or vulnerable. I think it's important that somebody has the power to look after things, to make things clear instead of causing complications for the rest of the family.
Loose Women looks like a lot of fun!
Loose Women is very loose sometimes. And if my mother knew that I was talking about sex live on TV, she would turn over in her grave! An elderly woman in Dublin stopped me not that long ago and said to me, ‘I love that Loose Women.’ So I said, ‘Why do you like it so much?’ She said ‘Because you talk about sex and things that we weren't allowed to talk about, when we were young.’ That's true, you know, my age group had no sex education in that sense. There's no holds barred on the programme, we talk about absolutely everything.
Sometimes on TV programmes you're sitting on the fence, but at Loose Women, you're on there for your views. It's quite liberating to be able to give your opinion. You do have to have an off button though, you have to know how far you can go with it. And of course, the reason why I like Janet Street-Porter so much is the fact that she says things even I wouldn't have the nerve to say! I quite like that. And I think that's why the public like it. There isn't a topic that we won't cover, and they're the kind of topics that people would be talking about if they're out for the evening or at home around the dinner table. And I think we're good at choosing topics that affect everybody.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Where do I see myself? I hope I'm still alive! A lot of people say, ‘Why do you want to live until you’re 90 or 100?’ I want to! And of course, you don't know what might happen to you sickness-wise in the meantime. But I want to live to 100, in fact, beyond if I can. And I'm very encouraged by some of the people I meet. It used to be the very odd person that lived to be 100 got a card from the Queen and that was it. But nowadays I go to visit care homes and there’s a number of people over 100.
Is there any exercise that you do, anything to keep fit and healthy?
I think it just depends on who you are and what your lifestyle is like. I have done lots of interviews in exercise classes or Zumba classes for older people, people who are retired. They're not doing anything that's too strenuous, but even in the care home I visited last week, people who had dementia and could hardly move were lifting their legs and arms, just doing exercise, sitting down. And it really, really was helpful. I see a lot of that around. And I think that's good because when people retire, they have the time to take up that weekly class on a Wednesday morning or whatever it happens to be. It’s being able to have that freedom to do whatever you want. And if that's out on the golf course, three times a week, that's good. On the other hand, if it's an exercise class or learning about diets or learning about food, then that's also good.
Is there anything you've got on your bucket list that you would like to tick off?
One thing I've always wanted to do, and not just as I've got older, is to drive or be driven from East to West in either America or Canada. I lived in Canada for a year and I adored it, and I love going to the States. I just would love to take three months to just doddle and drive, to go off wherever you want to go at your own pace, no rush. And if you find a place that you really like, stay an extra couple of days. I saw a great documentary about the Beverly Hills Hotel. It has such a history and because I love films and I've always been intrigued by Hollywood, I was fascinated with the history of the Hotel and all those marvellous cabanas outside. And I thought to myself, before I snuff it, I'm gonna go and have a holiday in that hotel!
I don't have any ambition to climb Everest. I was asked to walk the Great Wall of China once as Olivia Newton-John was doing it for a cancer charity. I really could latch onto the reason she was doing it, but when I looked at the depth of the steps and what it was going to be, my husband said, ‘It’s not for you.’ However, the late comedian Joan Rivers turned up at the start of the wall in four inch heels and was heard to explain ‘Oh my gawd I thought it was the great Mall of China!’ So, like her, I'm not one of those who think, ‘Oh, I've got a few mountains to climb.’
One thing I'd love to learn is play the piano. I've always wanted to play one. Although I was a singer from when I was seven, I never got around to the piano. We didn't have enough money for piano lessons. I suppose if I really put my mind to it I could still learn it, but there are other things at the minute that keep me busy.
Could you tell us about your daughter’s charity?
We lost Caron to breast cancer; she fought valiantly for seven years. Afterwards you just go into the blackest hole imaginable. And quite frankly, I didn't know how I was going to get out of it because I would crawl up it a little bit sometimes, and then at other times would plop back down again. The first few months were really, really tricky. I did put myself back to work reasonably quickly, because work has been, in a way, my life's foundation. I know where I am with work, whereas this was the worst thing that can happen to me; losing a child is all shifting sands all the time. So work in a way steadied me up a little bit or gave me a reason not to think about losing Caron, even if it was only for an hour or two hours.
One day an elderly woman wrote to me and she said she was very sorry to hear about Caron, but she said I now had to find a way of carrying Caron's spirit forward. And so in that moment of reading it, I thought, ‘I know what I have to do.’ I set up a foundation which helps cancer charities all over the country, called The Caron Keating Foundation. We do help purely cancer charities, but all types of cancer, not just breast cancer, which Caron died from. And that really has been part of my healing and it never goes away, but it helps me. And when older people say to me they have lost a loved one, I say to them, try to find something positive out of something so negative, because the foundation has been an amazing thing for me. I know that Caron would be very proud of what we're doing, helping people who are in trouble. I know that we're not a massive charity and we don't raise millions, but I know that whatever we give makes a difference. And I really like that. When I look on Caron's website and I see the sheer number of people that we've helped and that small donation or whatever it happens to be, it really makes a difference to smaller charities. I'm very proud of that and for as long as I'm living it will always be a priority in my life. So whatever else is happening, I'll be working on that foundation. I hope that one day Caron's children or my sons will carry it on as it's family-run. I often hope that they will continue that, because to do something in life, no matter what age you are, to make a positive out of a huge piece of negativity, is very constructive and very healing.