IT has been more than a year now but still there is a yawning, Jon Snow-sized gap in Channel 4 News.

Yes, Krishnan Guru-Murthy did his best to distract us with some spectacular on-air swearing, and Cathy Newman’s scorn is always a joy to behold when directed towards some hapless politician.

But things have just not been the same since the man in the retina-searing socks delivered his last sign-off on 23 December 2021.

Happily, we bring a good news-bad news update on Mr Snow’s whereabouts. On the upside, he is back on television this Sunday. On the downside, he is fronting a two-part documentary titled How to Live to 100. Talk about rotten timing.

As you will know, either from the media or personal experience, being old is not enjoying the best of reps at the moment.


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If living to the grand old age of 100 means more years of worrying about bills and queuing in hospital car parks for treatment, who would want that? Equally, if you could live well for longer, who would say no to the extra time?

As a species, humankind has been ambivalent about getting older. The alternative is a bummer, but as the saying goes, old age is not for softies either. So we try to accommodate it and hope for the best.

Entire industries have been built around people’s desire to look and feel as young as possible for as long as possible. Whatever ails us, we expect a cream for it, a drug, a surgical procedure.

In the developed world, exceeding your three score years and ten has become an accepted goal, almost a right. Not for everyone, everywhere, but for most people.

Yet there is a huge gap between our desire to live long, healthy, happy lives and what we are doing to make it happen. Into that gap strides Mr Snow, now age 75, looking for answers.

He begins with an admission that will chime with many: retirement has not been easy. He won’t even say the word, going for “semi-retirement” instead.

After 32 years of anchoring a nightly news show there have been withdrawal symptoms. He misses the buzz, the chat, the getting up and going out every day. Those lucky enough to have jobs they enjoy will know what he means.

HeraldScotland: Jon Snow anchored Channel 4 News from 1989 to 2021Jon Snow anchored Channel 4 News from 1989 to 2021 (Image: Newsquest)

Lockdown gave millions of others far from retirement age a taste of what they might expect. As we saw, and as is evidenced by soaring demand for mental health services, many did not cope well with the isolation and the empty days. Loneliness can be very bad for one's health.


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Snow’s search takes him first to the Greek island of Ikaria, known for its lower than average rates of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and other curses. One in three Ikarians live into their 90s and beyond, making it one of five places in the world identified as “blue zones” by the author and researcher Dan Buettner.

Snow puts the pieces together. Ikarians grow their own food and eat lots of fruit and veg. Young and old socialise at regular community events. There’s a strong tradition of volunteering to help the sick and old.

Older people remain with their families instead of going into care homes (there is one home on the island which caters for just 15 people). Islanders stay as active as possible and medication use is “unusually low”. Then, naturally, there is the glorious weather. Mild winters and long summers.

From Greece, Snow moves on to the US and a community of Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, 60 miles outside Los Angeles.

The US has an average life expectancy of 77, four years below that of the UK. But in this part of Loma Linda they expect to go on far longer. One 90-year-old is planning on having another 20 years. “What’s wrong with 110?” he asks in all seriousness.

Lifestyles on Ikaria and among the Seventh-day Adventists have much in common. It’s sunny in California too. But let’s face it, the secret to living longer and in good health is hardly a conundrum worthy of Bletchley Park’s finest.

We know what is bad for our health. In Glasgow, where life expectancy is determined by postcode, the evidence is all around us. Poverty, a poor diet, bad housing, lack of exercise, excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol – all lead to an early grave. In some parts you have more chance of making it to Mars than 100.

We know, too, what it will take to improve the situation: money, and lots of it, far more than we are willing to spend. It is not all about money, reform has a place too, but it is largely about money. As former Bank of England governor Mervyn King said recently, we want European levels of welfare payments and public spending paid for by American levels of tax rates.

Without spending more the problems are here to stay. If anything they will become worse. Today’s older people will be among the last to enjoy the benefits of free education, jobs for life, a functioning NHS, and decent pensions.

As for everyone else, our children and grandchildren, we can already see the way the world is shaping up. The notion of owning your own home is already the stuff of fantasy for young people, never mind building up a pension. Wonder what the retirement age will be when today’s nursery pupils start thinking about giving up work. Will there even be one?

Not if we carry on as now. Having to work longer will be one of a series of compromises we make to keep things ticking along.

The same already applies in healthcare. Those who can pay for treatment will; those who can’t … well, look around you. As of yesterday it is now a matter of public record that the Prime Minister of this country thinks so much of the NHS he has paid for private healthcare.


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People are rightly adapting to these new ways of living and ageing. They try to eat well, stay fit, get tested, all the good, sensible stuff, but these things alone won’t guarantee a century of healthy life.

I haven’t seen the second and concluding part of How to Live to 100. I dearly hope Mr Snow has discovered an easier, more achievable way of ensuring a long and happy life, and may we all get a chance to experience it. It costs nothing to dream after all.

How to Live to 100, Sunday, 6.45pm, Channel 4