Will I (I) Sheila Hancock Jimmy Macgovern France county Isle Of Wight city Sanjeev BBC Gogglebox show stars audience actress Eastenders Will I (I) Sheila Hancock Jimmy Macgovern France county Isle Of Wight city Sanjeev

Sheila Hancock, 90, on the brutal reality of ageing - from care homes to lost friends

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While Dame Sheila Hancock still has a zest for life and relishes being a working actress, she concedes that her body is beginning to fail her.The star has owned a home in Luberon, France, for the past 30 years, but says when she visited for the first time after the pandemic, something had changed. “The last time I went after lockdown, I realised I’ve aged,” she says. “Driving down to get there, I found it nerve-wracking for the first time in my life.

I also had to climb over [the edge of] the bath to have a shower – silly things like that. “I used to go over several times a year and that’s not the case now.

It takes too long to go by train. I have got to give it up and it is breaking my heart.” The 90-year-old recently starred opposite Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten, and will soon be appearing alongside Timothy Spall in BBC One’s The Sixth Commandment – a true drama based on murderer Ben Field.

Sheila has confronted the stigma around ageing in many of her screen roles, including Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On, where she played a widow whose children wouldn’t accept her new partner, and in 2017’s Edie, a film about an 83-year-old who decides to climb a mountain. “Old age has got a lot to do with letting things go, letting friends go,” she admits. “That is difficult when you have to let go of a way of life.

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