Miriam Margolyes Visits Vietnam

Actress Miriam Margolyes

The straight talking people’s champion, Miriam Margolyes, is our cover star this week! And she sat down with us to chat about ageing abroad, her love of Asia and how to travel when you’re over 50…

As an ambassador for Age International, Miriam recently travelled to Vietnam to explore the lifestyles of elderly men and women living in this deprived area. Here’s a short film of her trip…

Miriam in Vietnam

Miriam attended an older people’s club in the village of Dai Dong, about 3 hours from Hanoi. The club is inter-generational, so younger people also come to help out and join in social activities such as volleyball.

She chatted to the club leaders and members, took part in some games and a health session on taking blood pressure. The club plays an important part in reducing isolation and loneliness and improving health and it is a really positive, happy place.

The people in the village were very impressive! I don’t know what his name was, but the town leader in the first place I went to was an incredibly strong and vibrant personality. He ordered everybody about and he knew how to do everything and they really looked up to him. He was a proper leader… unlike the peely-wally people we have. I think very much that we should learn from that society.

Mrs Van (69), Miriam Margolyes (77), Mrs Duc Thi Nguyen (64)

Mrs Van (69), Miriam Margolyes (77), Mrs Duc Thi Nguyen (64)

The larger-than-life actress was introduced to some of the members individually at their homes including Duc (67), who manages the health and well-being activities at the club. Duc also received a loan from the club to start a small business keeping chickens in her garden.

Miriam also met Tuyet (61) and her brother Nho (64) who both have disabilities which affect their mobility and in Nho’s case, speech too. They are unable to leave their home but receive support from the club in the form of volunteer carers (Loi, Phuong and Nhu). The carers do tasks such as cooking, brushing hair and cleaning and they also provide much needed social contact.

There is often an assumption that in countries such as Vietnam, older people are cared for by their families, sadly this often isn’t the case as the younger generations migrate to find work. This was the case with many of the people Miriam met at the club, some were also looking after their grandchildren full time while the parents were working in another city or even abroad.

As for travel, Miriam says she’s not done yet and would actually love to explore her homeland more.

There are lots of places that I want to go to. Particularly around England! For example, I have never been to the Channel Islands. I’ve never been to the Shetlands. I want to experience what life offers while I still can.

And age shouldn’t halt your travels, says Miriam!

“I have all kinds of complaints. I have osteoporosis; I’ve got a bulging disc; I’ve had a knee replacement too…” then Miriam, on a typical Miriam whim, rants, “But I’m still going girl – I’m still doing it! Take courage with both hands and just get on with it!”

Miriam leaves us with a bit of advice for those a little anxious of travel. “Explore with other people. Join a group. Saga Holidays specialises in over 50s, so be daring! And I think women have got to travel on their own. Why shouldn’t they? We can’t be kept in!”

Hannah McLaren