A FORMER world jousting champion is starring in a national TV campaign for Age UK to encourage older folk to make the most of later life.

And whilst Alan Beattie, who turns 79 this month, wouldn't necessarily encourage them to take up the lance and steel helmet, he can heartily recommend his other passion - dancing.

Mr Beattie, who lives near Thirsk, continues to run a dance class for Age UK in Bedale and remains chairman of the International Jousting Association (IJA).

The charity chose him as one of four leading lights nationwide to spearhead their latest campaign.

An original Billy Elliott, his mother paid for tap dance lessons from the age of seven, a secret kept from his father.

"My mum used to pay for my lessons and that made me more committed and I've kept going with it ever since."

A former lecturer in physical education and psychology for Middlesbrough Education service and a former lecturer at Teesside Tertiary College, he learnt many of his jousting skills from an ex-cavalry sergeant.

He had ridden horses much of his life and played polo whilst in the RAF and was gripped by the new challenge.

The former magistrate also founded jousting group Knights of the Black Phoenix and helped set up the IJA.

He's travelled the world - and was involved in filming for Lord of the Rings in New Zealand.

"I was on the set of Lord of the Rings when my lance hit a tree and my helmet got caught and I did the proverbial backwards somersault.

"Up to that point I'd been OK, but I don't like getting thumped any more. I still have a pommel horse at home, where I teach people to fall off their horse backwards."

On dancing, he says: "It's marvellous, it keeps you supple and it's good for the brain too. That's really the whole point of the Age UK campaign to encourage people to be active and it really is important to love later life, your age is just a number."

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams, said it was people like Alan who helped change perceptions of older people.

To find out more about Age UK's campaign and see Alan's video and advert go to www.ageuk.org.uk/lovelaterlife.