- The 'Mindset of a Pilot' experiment Duration: 02:25 The Science of The Young Ones
- Dickie Bird gets his final results Duration: 02:55 Episode 3
- Men only casino night Duration: 03:04
- Lionel Blair's dance class Duration: 02:13 Episode 2
- Derek Jameson climbing stairs Duration: 02:05 Episode 1
- Six celebrities turn back the clock Duration: 02:32
About the Show
What if it were possible to turn back time? Could it be that we have the power to think ourselves young again? That’s the extraordinary claim of an experiment first conducted 30 years ago which the BBC is now re-staging.
Six well-loved celebrities in their 70s and 80s – Liz Smith, Lionel Blair, Dickie Bird, Sylvia Syms, Derek Jameson and Kenneth Kendall – have agreed to turn back the clock to 1975 when they were in their heyday. For one week they will live, work and eat in the 1970s to see if they can regain their youth.
The Original Experiment
In 1981 psychologist Ellen Langer from Harvard University conducted a unique experiment to find out what would happen when a group of eight elderly men were given the experience of living 20 years earlier. She and her team created a living environment complete with food, films, photos from the period. The group discussed news, politics and sport in the present tense as if they had travelled back in time.
Astonishingly the group became physically and psychologically younger. Their hearing, grip strength and manual dexterity improved. Memory and IQ scores also improved. Because their minds were actively engaged in living 20 years earlier, their bodies seemed to follow. Ellen believes this is a demonstration of how our bodies don't let us down as we get older, it's our minds that accept the labels of ageing. Freeing ourselves from that state of mind can turn back the clock.
Professor Ellen Langer
Ellen conducted the pioneering Counter Clockwise study which is the basis for The Young Ones series. Based in the Psychology Department of Harvard University, she's explored the theory of turning back time in over 200 research articles and six academic books. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest from the American Psychological Association.
Celebrity Participants: Lionel Blair - Age at the time of experiment: 77
Lionel has been in showbiz for 67 years, working as an actor, tap dancer, choreographer and television presenter. In 1980 he cast the stars appearing in the Royal Command Performance to mark the Queen Mother's 80th birthday, and opened the show with a tap dance accompanied by Una Stubbs. He was team captain on the TV quiz show Give Us a Clue in the 1980s and is still working.Clip: An introduction to Lionel Blair
Liz Smith - Age at the time of experiment: 88
Liz is most well known for her role of Nana in The Royle Family and her work in The Vicar of Dibley. She got her big career break in 1970 in a Mike Leigh film. During the next couple of decades she appeared in many films and television dramas, winning a BAFTA for her performance in A Private Function. In 2009, Liz was awarded an MBE for her services to drama.Clip: An introduction to Liz Smith
Sylvia Syms - Age at the time of experiment: 76
From screen siren to character actress, Sylvia Syms' career spans stage, film and television and she continues to work. She appeared alongside the biggest film stars in the 1950s and 60s, most notably in the film Ice Cold in Alex. She portrayed Margaret Thatcher on stage and screen and the Queen Mother in the film, The Queen. Sylvia was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2007.Clip: An introduction to Sylvia Syms
Kenneth Kendall - Age at the time of experiment: 85
Kenneth was the first newsreader to appear on BBC television during the 1950s. He was voted the most popular newscaster by Daily Mirror readers in 1979. Esteemed for his sartorial elegance he was elected best-dressed newsreader by Style International. Kenneth went on to host the game show Treasure Hunt (1982-89).Clip: An introduction to Kenneth Kendall
Derek Jameson - Age at the time of experiment: 80
Derek began work in Fleet Street as a messenger boy at the age of 14 and rose through the ranks to become Managing Editor of the Daily Mirror and Editor of the Daily Express, the Daily Star and News of the World. Heralded by many as a national institution, he went on to present various radio and television programmes in the 80s.Clip: An introduction to Derek Jameson
Dickie Bird - Age at the time of experiment: 77
Dickie was an English international cricket umpire, officiating in 66 Test matches and 69 One Day Internationals including 3 World Cup Finals. In 1986, he received an MBE from the Queen and in 1998 he stood in his last county match.Clip: An introduction to Dickie Bird
Improve Your Age
Exercising is good for your brain as well as your body, stimulating brain cell growth and lengthening your life. It's never too late to start. People aged 75 taking up regular exercise for the first time were shown to live longer.
Any activity that raises the heart rate for 30 minutes, five times a week will do the trick, such as walking the dog.
Use it or lose it. Brain cells can be grown and reprogrammed at any age.
Concentrate on what you need to remember and avoid distractions. Keep essential items like the house keys in the same place. Carry a notebook to write important things down. Congratulate yourself whenever your memory is good. A confidence boost will ensure you're less likely to forget.
Keep your blood vessels clear so your brain has a good supply of blood to regenerate cells. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and one portion of oily fish a week. Reduce fat, salt and alcohol intake. This diet helps reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
Keeping your friends close can extend your life. Having the support of friends at stressful times reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, so you're less likely to suffer from heart disease.
People watching a comedy programme can tolerate pain for longer, so why not turn the television on instead of popping a painkiller? Claims that laughter boosts your immune system are being investigated.
Resist the negative stereotype of being old. It can shorten your life! A team of American psychologists found that people who were positive about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those who regretted the passing years.
Taking Control Back
Experiments in care homes have shown that residents who are given choice and responsibility feel happier. Their memory and concentration improves. The health of residents encouraged to be dependent was seen to deteriorate.
Continuing to work gives a sense of worth and purpose and offers a stimulating environment. Older workers are less likely to accept negative age labelling and have shown improvements in psychological and physical health.
No-one is going to admit to being ageist but a test to reveal hidden attitudes has been developed by Harvard University. 80% of respondents have been shown to hold negative views of older people. The shocking discovery is that older people themselves hold those negative views.
Professor Erber discovered that when young people forget, it's ascribed to a lack of attention, but older people are dismissed as incompetent when they do the same.
People are seen as becoming worse at their job as they age despite the lack of evidence to prove that they do. An experiment conducted by the State University of New York showed people chose younger applicants over old despite all having the same qualifications.
We absorb stereotypes without realising. The Science of the Young Ones replicated an experiment by Professor Bagh, which revealed people who were exposed to 'old', words, such as ‘forgetful’ and ‘wise’, walked more slowly afterwards
Further research revealed that older people perform worse if they're told the experiment is testing the theory that intellect declines with age.
Older people are vulnerable to the effects of absorbing these negative attitudes. A study by Yale University found that people who were positive about ageing lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those who were negative.
In a government report, Professor Abrams recommended that generations should be encouraged to mix thereby prompting the breakdown of stereotypes. The more aware we are of negative stereotypes, the more we can counteract them.
As The Young Ones celebrity volunteers discovered, refusing to accept the limits of ageing and associated negative attitudes, is life enhancing. Old age is an inevitability, so let's be more positive about it!
Mental Agility Tests
Is your brain as efficient as it could be or is there room for improvement? Have a go at our four mental agility tests.Test your mental agility
The Young Ones Blog
Executive producer Tom McDonald talks about recreating the 1970s for six celebrities.Read The Young Ones Blog