Ageing is not for sissies warns Dame Kate

“When I think about it, I’d sooner not be young again,” says Dame Kate Harcourt, DNZM.

“I think of the painful moments — the disappointments, pain and the failures. I am glad not to have to go through these at this time when things seem so much harder than they were in my day.

“Then I remember the delights, the triumphs, the passion in the past and I am deeply contented with the present.”

Kate in front of bookcase

Dame Kate, who has graced the stage for many years and appeared on our screens in various television shows and films, has recently been appointed a SuperSeniors Champion.

The actor, who continues to work, is one of a handful of New Zealanders recognised as outstanding advocates for positive ageing.

“Ageing is not for sissies” she says but there are many advantages.

“There’re no more oughts!  One ‘ought’ to do this, that or the other thing.

“There is hardly ever any reason for getting out of bed early unless, as in my case, one’s grandson needs a lift to school.

“There is rarely any reason to buy expensive new clothes.  Just take a look at your bulging wardrobe  and choose something you haven’t worn for years. I find that really rewarding. It provides a very satisfactory feeling of economy.”

Her advice is to stay involved with many people and participate in what you love, which for the actor, singer and former teacher, is the arts.  

“I’ve got the script for a film but they haven’t got the clearance for it yet so I’m waiting.

“I used to be very bad at learning lines and as I got older I got better – don’t know why. I think it’s so much practise.

“I’ve just been made patron of the Sheila Winn Shakespeare outfit and that’s going to involve me in quite a lot of stuff.”

A busy life

It’s been a busy life for Dame Kate who first started working as a kindergarten teacher and over the course of many years, has had a wide variety of jobs.

“I was a singer, then I went to London and was a governess, a receptionist; came back to New Zealand and was a teacher.

“I presented 'Listen to Mother' for seven years, then I was a publicist at Downstage, I was the fashion co-ordinator at Kirkcaldies for some time, did all their fashion shows.

“I ran a coffee shop for a year and then became an actor really.”

While the different types of work have been interesting, it’s not been easy.

“Peter my husband and I were freelance – we always said we invented the word, and we never knew where we were financially.

“It was always a struggle but it was worth it in the end.”

Dame Kate lives downstairs from daughter Miranda and her family, which both love for keeping the family connected.

She will often drive her grandson Peter to school when he comes knocking on her door early in the morning, and will take Thomasin to her piano lessons or read stories to Davida who loves listening to her grandmother.

Her advice about positive ageing is to keep busy in all aspects of life.

As well as helping out with family and working, Dame Kate attends a book club, is a member of the University of the Third Age, and catches up with friends on a weekly basis.

“I go to a regular Monday lunch, just turn up when you want – that’s good contact, and keep up with your friends.”

Inevitably, her circle of old friends has grown smaller but Dame Kate is open to connecting to new people.

“Making new friends is important, and staying involved in life.”