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At the sprightly age of 80, late late legend shows us how to grow old Gay-fully

There hasn't been a water cooler moment in the Late Late Show for some time, a moment when the nation's collective jaw dropped, as we were presented with an astounding fact which became the essential topic of conversation at work on Monday morning.

To be honest, one would have to go back to the days of Gay Byrne's position at the helm of said show to recall such a moment, as he cajoled dark secrets out of Terry Keane or Annie Murphy. So how appropriate it is that the most recent of such moments should involve Gay, though this time not as presenter, but as a guest.

Because on Friday's Late Late, it was revealed that Gay Byrne is 80 years old.

Of course, many people knew this already, as his birthday in August was well documented. But it wasn't until Friday, seeing Gay in the flesh and, more importantly, witnessing his behaviour, that the extraordinary aspect of this fact dawned.

Gay was, as ever, charmingly self-deprecating about the dichotomy between his appearance and his actual age, brushing off questions about the secrets of his health with a throwaway comment "I'm reasonably fit, I'm still vertical, and you have to keep moving."

But, of course, Gay's remarkable mental and physical fitness for someone his age is no fluke, nor is it the gift of genetics, as he revealed how his own father died at 58 years of age from lung cancer, having been a heavy smoker all his life.

Gay at 80 is a product of hard, conscious choices. In talking about how he would often take the DART 7-8 miles in one direction, and then walk home, Gay revealed that his fitness is the product of a way of life that he has adhered to for decades.

And even at an age when many people have put their feet up for good, he revealed that "I've always been a great walker, and ride a bike. I tootle off now and then and I do about 25 or 30 miles."

The word "inspiring" is an oft-bandied expression to describe someone who has achieved success that we'd like to emulate. And of course, in that way, Gay Byrne is himself tremendously inspiring to so many TV presenters. In some ways, however, he is even more than that.

The manner in which he has lived his life, the discipline he has adopted, the moderation he has shown in terms of the Irish scourges of drink, smokes and gambling, are a lesson to us all.

And if we ever need an example of the benefits of living healthily, one need only look at Gay now - 80 years of age, his mind as sharp as a button, and his body more sprightly than many people half his age.


And as a sidebar, at a time in their life when most people would be living off the state, sitting in a hospital ward at the taxpayer's expense, courtesy of a life spent in pubs, fast-food restaurants and cars, Gay is doing the opposite - he is still contributing to Ireland, not just with the enjoyment that people get from his TV and radio shows, tours and books, but in concrete terms by paying tax on the receipts of his endeavours.

Gay is the gift that continues to give, and shows no sign of ending. We should all follow Gay's life example and be aiming to grow old Gay-fully.