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At least when I get to 85, I won't have to worry about the future Buffy man: Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon

Have you ever met any old people? Perhaps you even know some. They have, as this column has tirelessly pointed out, all but disappeared from our streets and pubs.

Either they're all sitting at home, ordering groceries in by van, or they've been caught in nets and bunged into homes.

It's not right, but this is the 21st century, and nothing is. This survey result, despite being based on a huge sample, isn't right: people are at their happiest at the age of 85.

Happy? You're having a laugh. Sometimes, very rarely, you encounter a genuinely old person who has escaped their home for a few minutes.

And what's the first thing you notice? They all look so miserable and grim. No wonder. They've probably lost a spouse. And every bit of their body aches.

Out of politeness, if you've been unable to hide behind a car, you say: "Good morning, madam. And how are you today?"

And they start immediately to recite this litany of medical complaints, accompanied by startlingly geographical descriptions of innards you'd never heard of before.

And you say: "When I said 'How are you', I didn't mean literally, like, how are you? I meant: Hello, isn't the weather nice? Not: Hello, how's your lower intestine and bowel area generally?"

Forthright old people often tell you it's rubbish being elderly. Make the most of life while you can, they say.

Most of us find this advice disturbing, as we feel we should start running about waving our arms or, if you want to be really pointless, go white-water rafting.

But, having given it some thought, you just crack open a can of lager and watch another re-run of Buffy.

Question to Buffy lovers from a Joss Whedon fan: does that series ever get any better? Because season one, as everyone agrees, is dreadful, and the first episode of season two, which is supposed to be better, is also risible.

Second question, while I'm embracing the tangent: is there not one sophisticated American TV show-maker, from Joss to whoever made Mad Men, who doesn't think that every Englishman wears a tweed jacket and has a coat of arms on his castle wall? Bizarre.

But, to get back to the elderly, a US Gallup telephone poll of 340,000 people found 85-year-olds infinitely happier than 18-year-olds.

Less specifically, you feel increasingly miserable from 18 to 50, when you start to perk up a little, possibly at the prospect of death.

There are other reasons. The worst of the many rotten things about life involves something we all hate: vicissitudes. Vicissitudes are a right pain, and have been programmed into our lives by a sadistic deity seeking to test us.

However, age teaches us to handle this wickedness, while simultaneously appreciating the better things in life. I can only think they're referring to chips there.

The older you get the more you realise you can't please everybody. And you've fewer aspirations with which to torture yourself.

You also learn not to worry about the future, on account of not really having one any more.

Well, roll on 85, in that case. These folk who fiddle with our genes will surely have cured everything by then.

And we'll wave our pain-free arms at the heavens and shout: A fie upon your vicissitudes!

Belfast Telegraph