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She says: “Though Maggie Smith and Judi Dench (both 85)] have done all right, there’s not a lot of drama work for older actresses. And you have to understand that every older actress still thinks that she’s 34. Look at Joan Collins.

“And just because you’re 74 it doesn’t mean that you believe it. Whenever I talk to young people I can never understand why they don’t invite me out clubbing. I can dance and I’m good fun.

“When Rula Lenska and I used to share a flat in Manchester we had a blast. We called ourselves The Rock and The Hard Place.”

Dame Maureen, who portrayed “ology”-obsessed gran Beattie Bellman in the 1980s BT ads, says there is “a certain amount of invisibility” at her age.

But she tells the Radio Times Christmas issue: “I don’t sit around thinking about my absence from society. I’m too busy getting on with life.

“Maybe we do get thrown on to the scrap heap after a certain age. I’ve lost a lot of friends and that really makes you realise that you should do the work while you can still get it.”

The mother of two adds: “When I was 71 I did panto in Richmond, flashing my legs and thinking nothing of it. So I’ll keep working for as long as I’ve got my health.”

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